www.charlestondailymail.com Sports http://www.charlestondailymail.com Daily Mail feed en-us Copyright 2014, Charleston Newspapers, Charleston, WV Newspapers MOUNTAINEER GAMEDAY: Many Mountaineers could play vs. Towson http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140905/DM03/140909503 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140905/DM03/140909503 Fri, 5 Sep 2014 21:33:50 -0400 By Mike Casazza MORGANTOWN - Two numbers matter for West Virginia on Saturday when it plays host to Towson at Mountaineer Field.

Neither is the Tigers' ranking in the Football Bowl Subdivision, that being No. 19 in one poll and No. 22 in another. It's not Towson's 11-game road winning streak or the 7:30 p.m. kickoff that will test that mightily.

No, one number is WVU's final score, which ought to be higher than Towson's and move the team to 15-0 all-time against the FCS. The other is the number of Mountaineers who play along the way.

Last week, WVU took 70 players to Atlanta for the opener against No. 2 Alabama. Fifty-six played. Dana Holgorsen called it a "very healthy number." If he wants this team to remain fit and keep from falling ill, it simply must play and develop more players, and sooner rather than later.

No one should have to tell this to the Mountaineers, who were so emaciated last season they were about a week away from selling playing time on eBay. WVU doesn't have to restrict the travel roster this week and should flaunt the value of depth it's bragged about so often since starting July 31.

"I think some other guys need to get more involved," offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson said.

Understand Holgorsen's hands were, shall we say, Tide last week. Alabama isn't an opponent to trifle with and it might not be the best idea to give a kid his first action that day.

Offensive line coach Ron Crook, for example, wants to use three backup linemen around 20 snaps each in a game. He used one for a handful of plays and only because left guard Quinton Spain got hurt and had to leave.

"One of the things I don't want to do is put someone in there before I feel they're totally ready and maybe it takes three weeks to recover from it if they're not ready to go," he said.

Of his three backup linemen, only Stone Underwood has played in a game - and that was his brief relief action against Alabama.

Defensive coordinator Tony Gibson wanted to play more people than he did, and he was more than a handful shy of the 20 or 25 players he wants to use under ordinary circumstances. The Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game was not ordinary. Alabama is formidable and could do damage to a new player's confidence, but more importantly and more impressively, the Mountaineers were very much in the game.

"I should have played more guys, but I got caught up in the emotion of the game and didn't want to pull a guy out and throw a guy in who hasn't been playing at that point," said Gibson, who specifically wants to play more of his linebackers and make sure he doesn't wear out his starters. "I was worried about the flow of the game. It was a three-point game, a seven-point game the whole game and I was afraid to put a guy in and have them pop one on us and have it all fall back on him."

Those issues shouldn't prevail in the presence of Towson. This is the program that made the FCS championship game last season, but this is not the team that finished runner up. This is a team that is 0-1 and lost at home to a Central Connecticut State team that's starting over with a new coach. This is a team that lost all its offensive linemen, plus its quarterback and running back, the last to the NFL's Cleveland Browns.

If WVU is the team that can play with Alabama, it shouldn't be playing around with Towson. It should be able to succeed offensively and finish drives and it should be able to control the pass and stop the run defensively and get off the field. Along the way, the Mountaineers should be able to use more players than they did last week, both within the game and then, if all goes according to their plans, late in the game when the score might allow for such a luxury.

Safety Karl Joseph, for example, played 903 of 920 snaps last season. He played all 92 Saturday. The Mountaineers would love to see Jarrod Harper give Joseph a break - and WVU likes Harper enough to have him in the nickel defense package. Cullen Christian played just a little for active, aggressive and slightly undersized K.J. Dillon. Jeremy Tyler played just a little for true freshman Dravon Henry.

Those are WVU's safeties, and more likely than not they can't keep up that pace. WVU is in a passing conference. Depth and experience are vital, and safeties coach Joe DeForest wasn't happy with the way things went against Alabama.

"I don't want those numbers," he said. "I want it to be 70 (percent)-30 (percent). You're going to be more productive if you play 70 percent than you are if you play 100 percent of the snaps. You'll be more active, you'll be less tired. These guys need to get into games and play in critical situations so when we do need them throughout the year, they've done it."

If not this week, when? On the road against Maryland? At home against No. 3 Oklahoma? Later in the Big 12 schedule? Green players could be exposed then or they could remain on the sideline then, which puts more stress on the regulars, and they have plenty already.

Receivers Mario Alford and Kevin White are clearly the two best players at their position. It's thin behind them. Vernon Davis didn't play Saturday and both Shelton Gibson and Devonte Mathis dropped critical passes and weren't heard from after that because WVU couldn't afford more of the same.

They can't afford drops against Towson, but they're not working with the same narrow margin, either. They should get a chance Saturday and would help themselves and everyone else around them if they made the most of it.

"If you look at the flow of the game, Kevin and Mario do a lot in the vertical game," Dawson said. "We need some guys to come in behind them and play well. We put some guys in the game - and i t's harder to put guys in the game when you don't run but 68 or 69 plays - but if you put guys in the game and they don't make plays, you're a little more gun shy.

"We need to get confidence in those guys. Our job is to give them leeway to make some play, and they're more than capable. We've got some extremely capable backups."

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MOUNTAINEER GAMEDAY: Numbers & Nuggets http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140905/DM03/140909504 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140905/DM03/140909504 Fri, 5 Sep 2014 21:32:07 -0400 By Chuck McGill .777 - WVU returns to Mountaineer Field. Home, sweet home, right? West Virginia has the 12th-best winning percentage at home of any FBS program over the past 12 seasons. The Mountaineers are 56-16 (.777 winning percentage) in Morgantown since 2003. Only Boise State, Oklahoma, Ohio State, LSU, Wisconsin, Georgia, Virginia Tech, Southern Cal, TCU, Florida and Texas are better on their respective home fields.

3 - West Virginia senior quarterback Clint Trickett threw 45 passes in the season opening-loss to Alabama, which ranked 10th among all quarterbacks nationally in the first week. Only two others in the top 10, however, escaped the first game without an interception. The others were Texas A&M's first-time starter Kenny Hill, who threw 60 passes without a pick. Western Kentucky's Brandon Doughty attemptd 56 passes without an interception.

5 - Last week's loss to Alabama was just the fifth time in the Dana Holgorsen era in which West Virginia hasn't had a rushing touchdown. The others were Maryland in 2013, and Maryland, Kansas State and Syracuse (Pinstripe Bowl) in 2012. The Mountaineers are now 1-4 all-time under Holgorsen when the team doesn't register a rushing touchdown.

7 - Despite not receiving any recognition in the Associated Press preseason top 25 poll, the Mountaineers garnered seven points in the "others receiving votes" category of the most recent poll. All of the votes, however, came from one media member: Jon Wilner of the San Jose (Calif.) Mercury News. Wilner ranked West Virginia No. 19 after the season-opening loss to No. 2 Alabama.

10 - The Mountaineers have won 10 consecutive home openers dating back to a 24-17 loss to Wisconsin to start the 2003 portion of the slate in Morgantown. In that span, WVU has defeated East Carolina, Wofford, Marshall (three times), Western Michigan, Villanova, Liberty, Coastal Carolina and William & Mary.

14 - The West Virginia football program is perfect against Football Championship Subdivision schools, formerly Division I-AA. WVU first started playing FCS schools in 1978 with the first of four games against Richmond. The Mountaineers took a two-decade break from 1982 to 2002, but have played 10 FCS teams since.

19 - Towson is ranked No. 19 nationally in the FCS coaches poll after a Week 1 loss. The Tigers were voted No. 7 in the FCS preseason coaches poll after a runner-up finish in 2013. Towson lost to North Dakota State, which beat Iowa State last Saturday, in the national championship game last season.

25.1 - West Virginia has had its way with FCS opponents. The Mountaineers are a perfect in 14 games against the FCS opponents and have won those matchups by an average of 25.1 points per game. In the past 10 meetings, only one FCS opponent has kept the game within single digits. That was William & Mary last season, when the Tribe lost 24-17 in Morgantown.

80 - Beware of the FCS triumph. Eighty current Football Bowl Championship programs have lost at least once to an FCS school as an FBS member. This is a recent issue. Of those 80, 57 programs have lost to an FCS program since 2000, and 33 of those "rare" upsets have come since 2010.

110 - The WVU defense had a tall task in the opening week. The Mountaineers yielded 538 yards of offense to Alabama, which puts WVU No. 110 in total defense after one game. The Mountaineers are one of eight defenses that allowed at least 250 yards passing and 250 yards rushing in the first week. Of those, though, WVU's 6.56 yards-per-play allowed was the best.

365 - Clint Trickett completed 29 passes for 365 yards against Alabama, making him only the third quarterback since 2000 to pass for at least that amount against a Nick Saban-led defense. The other two QBs: Johnny Manziel, who threw for 464 yards at Texas A&M last season, and Rex Grossman, who threw for the same amount at Florida in 2001 when the Gators played Saban's LSU Tigers.

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Rah rah, hey hey, who is Towson anyway? http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140905/UNKNOWN/140909573 UNKNOWN http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140905/UNKNOWN/140909573 Fri, 5 Sep 2014 08:24:11 -0400 By Zack Harold Towson who? The Towson what? Towson, where?

Don't worry, you're not the only one asking that question.

Over the course of this year's West Virginia University football season, the Gazette-Mail is taking a look at each of the Mountaineers' opponents.

Last week saw the Mountaineers facing the storied Crimson Tide of Alabama. But this Saturday's opponent - Maryland's Towson Tigers - is a bit less well-known to WVU fans.

Consider this your primer.

TOWSON WASN'T ALWAYS TOWSON

Although the school is technically a year older than WVU, "Towson University" has only existed for 26 years.

The school was founded in 1866 as the State Normal School.

The Maryland General Assembly created the institution following the Civil War to train teachers for the state's burgeoning public school system.

Things started small.

The school opened with just three faculty members and 11 students, with classes taking place in some rented rooms in downtown Baltimore.

That's right, Towson wasn't even in Towson at the time.

The institution grew significantly over the next decade, however. By 1876, the State Normal School had 10 faculty members and 206 students.

The school moved into a brand-new building to accommodate its growing enrollment, but also began a campaign to establish its own campus.

In 1912 the General Assembly passed a $600,000 bond issue, which allowed the State Normal School to purchase 80 acres of land in Towson and begin construction of its first classroom buildings.

The school began offering bachelor's degrees in 1935 as Maryland increased requirements for its public school teachers. The change prompted the school to change its name to State Teachers College at Towson.

Towson began offering additional degrees in the arts and sciences in the 1960s, and in 1976 adopted yet another new name to reflect the change. It was now called "Towson State University."

It would drop the "State" from its name 12 years later to become Towson University.

FOOTBALL IS KINDA NEW

Since the school started as a teacher's college - and most teachers were women, and few womens' sports programs existed in the 1860s - organized sports didn't begin at Towson until the 1920s.

In 1921, the school started a men's basketball and soccer team. Women's sports began in 1947, when the school formed a women's basketball team.

Football didn't arrive until 1969, however.

The team started out as a Division III program. In 1976, the Tigers made their first trip to the playoffs and fought all the way to the championship game, where they lost to St. Johns of Minnesota by a single, game-ending field goal.

Towson climbed to the NCAA's Division II in 1979 and, in their first season, found themselves in the division playoffs.

The team would make two more Division II playoff appearances before Towson joined Division I-AA in 1987.

It would be 24 years before the Tigers got another shot at the postseason, but in 2011 Towson again reached the playoffs.

That made the team the first football program in NCAA history to play postseason games in all three divisions.

THE TIGERS

Tigers abound in college sports.

There are 28 NCAA teams that use the jungle beast as their mascot, including former WVU opponents LSU, Auburn and Clemson.

But although Towson's mascot lacks originality, it is still better than the school's original mascot.

Back in the early days of Towson sports, local reporters dubbed its teams "The Teachers."

The name surely struck fear in the hearts of opposing teams.

As the school grew, sportswriters afforded Towson players more prestigious titles. The teams were called "The Professors" for a time and later "The Schoolmasters."

Towson, meanwhile, adopted slightly more intimidating official mascots. Teams were known as the Indians for a while. By the 1950s, they were the Towson Golden Knights.

Then, in the early 1960s, a local sports reporter noted Towson's soccer team played "like tigers."

The soccer team liked the idea and adopted the tiger as their mascot. The rest of the school's teams soon followed suit.

Contact writer Zack Harold at 304-348-4830 or zack.harold@dailymailwv.com. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ZackHarold.

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WVU FOOTBALL: Mountaineers address blitz issues for Towson game http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140904/DM03/140909581 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140904/DM03/140909581 Thu, 4 Sep 2014 23:02:58 -0400 By Mike Casazza MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - Given that West Virginia lost to No. 2 Alabama by 10 points and made obvious errors to affect scoring situations, a case could be made the Mountaineers were just a few plays shy of a different outcome.

Receivers Jordan Thompson and Shelton Gibson dropped third-down passes that would have given the offense first downs inside Alabama's 20-yard line. Clint Trickett threw a bad pass to fullback Eli Wellman, who would have walked into the end zone. Gibson's drop brought kicker Josh Lambert onto the field and Lambert missed a 47-yard field goal, though WVU says it was tipped.

The Mountaineers play with a three-sided ball, though, and the defense was far from free of guilt. They left six sacks and five fruitless blitzes on the artificial turf at the Georgia Dome.

"We were 0-for-6," WVU defensive coordinator/linebackers coach Tony Gibson said. "We could have made six plays and changed that game. We could have made one play and changed that game."

Instead of taking a down and yardage from Alabama or creating a turnover and maybe even a scoring opportunity, the Mountaineers let the Crimson Tide avoid losses or move the ball. The six misses came on separate drives and Alabama ended three drives with a touchdown and one with a field goal.

"Pass rush issues still exist," fourth-year West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen said.

WVU (0-1) looks to fix that sooner rather than later beginning with Saturday's 7:30 p.m. home opener against Towson (0-1) at Mountaineer Field. The game will be televised by Root Sports.

The Tigers are working with five new starters on the offensive line who before last week's home loss to Central Connecticut State had a combined two career starts - both belonging to guard Jake Schunke. Three of the starters will be in their second career game.

The Mountaineers, though, finished with no sacks against Alabama. That's 10th time that's happened in Holgorsen's 39 games. It happened half as many times in the 39 games before that. WVU was one of only 18 teams to go without a sack last week, a bad start for a team that finished tied for No. 107 out of 123 FBS teams last season with 1.33 sacks per game.

"I view them as better schematically with getting guys there free." Holgorsen said. "You have to pull the trigger. We had some guys who just missed."

They did find ways to spring blitzers and create chances, but missed each one - though not without some explanations. The Mountaineers didn't know Alabama quarterback Blake Sims would be as quick and slippery as he was. What they saw of him on film was mostly handoffs at the end of blowout wins the past two seasons. What they saw in person was entirely different.

That it happened in the first game was a part of the problem, too. WVU abided by a Big 12 recommendation to tackle on 12 days in preseason camp, though teams don't do much more than that ordinarily because they want to keep players fresh, safe and healthy.On days when teams do tackle in practice, the quarterback is almost always off limits.

That created a problem on top of the one Sims presented.

"It's the speed of the game," Holgorsen said. "We didn't turn our guys loose on blitzes to knock our quarterbacks out during practice. That's just something that you can't duplicate."

It nevertheless proved costly. Linebacker Wes Tonkery sped unblocked through the middle on a first down at Alabama's 27-yard line in the first quarter, but missed and Sims threw the ball out of bounds. Alabama scored a touchdown on the drive for a 10-3 lead.

WVU had Alabama back at its 12 in the second quarter and defensive end Dontrill Hyman slipped around the corner and ran past Sims, who'd dropped to near his goal line. WVU thought Hyman could have forced a fumble or gotten a safety, but Sims ran for 2 yards on first down. Alabama's touchdown 12 plays later built a 17-10 lead.

"He's got to aim at the outside shoulder," WVU defensive ends coach Damon Cogdell said. "He was aiming at the inside shoulder. He just needs to have a better approach. That's all it was."

There were several miscues in the third quarter. The first came when safety Karl Joseph, who missed with K.J. Dillon, but forced an incomplete pass, in the second quarter, had a hold of Sims, but let him step out. Sims ran for six yards, and though Alabama would later turn the ball over on downs, the scramble led to linebacker Nick Kwiatkoski getting leveled on a blindside block.

Cornerback Travis Bell blitzed from the left on first down at Alabama's 30 in the same quarter and Sims didn't see Bell until the last moment. Sims flinched at his 22 and avoided a big bit, a fumble and perhaps a fumble return to complete a 13-yard pass. Alabama scored another touchdown five plays later for a 27-20 lead.

The last miss was the most important. On third-and-9 late in the quarter, Dillon blitzed from where Bell had blitzed and at least forced Sims to scramble out of bounds for a 5-yard gain. Had Dillon made the play, though, Sims would have never made it to the sideline, where he ran into linebacker Sean Walters and drew the dubious, game-changing unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. Alabama stayed on the field and kicked a field goal four plays later for a 30-20 lead.

"They knew it when it happened," WVU safeties coach JoeDeForest said. "We practiced it all camp and knew what we were going to do, and it worked, except where to aim. You get into the heat of the battle and get excited and it's, 'Ball!' But it's something you've got to do. You've got to do your job. It wasn't for a lack of effort or a lack of understanding. It was a lack of concentration within that moment."

Contact sportswriter Mike Casazza at mikec@dailymailwv.com or 304-319-1142. His blog is at blogs.charlestondailymail.com/wvu. Follow him on Twitter at @mikecasazza.

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MARSHALL FOOTBALL: Herd wants fourth-quarter effort against Rhode Island http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140904/DM03/140909582 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140904/DM03/140909582 Thu, 4 Sep 2014 23:00:41 -0400 By Derek Redd HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - The Marshall football team doesn't want 15 minutes in its season opener to color its entire season, but the Thundering Herd does want to use it as a learning tool.

Cruising with a comfortable 25-point lead, the Herd watched Miami (Ohio) score 17 straight third-quarter points and make it a one-score game before Marshall pulled away with a 42-27 win. Herd coach Doc Holliday said after last Saturday's game and earlier this week that a team's biggest improvement comes between its first and second games, and Marshall will see if that theory holds in its home opener this Saturday versus Rhode Island.

"It's about getting better than we were last week," right tackle Clint Van Horn said. "That's what it comes down to. When you talk about that third quarter, that really left a bad taste in my mouth. I'm not the only one who wants to redeem himself.

"We want to see how much better we can get," he added. "I don't like the excuse of, 'Oh, that's the first game, opening game jitters.' There's no excuse for that. We really want to redeem ourselves and that's what the push is."

There was plenty to like about last week's win. Marshall's 42 points were the most any Football Bowl Subdivision team scored on the road in college football's opening week. Running back Devon Johnson rushed for 151 yards and two touchdowns in his debut at the position. Quarterback Rakeem Cato stayed interception-free and threw for three touchdowns.

That third quarter, though, offered plenty of tangible evidence that it wouldn't always be easy. Marshall's opening drive of that quarter ended three plays in with a Deandre Reaves fumble. The RedHawks outgained the Herd 142-58, won time of possession 10:30 to 4:24 and gained eight first downs to Marshall's two. Marshall also failed to convert on all three of its third downs and its one fourth down, and a 28-3 lead became a 28-20 lead.

Part of Marshall's struggles might have come from dealing with the unknown. The RedHawks were debuting a new coaching staff and new quarterback Notre Dame graduate transfer Andrew Hendrix. The Herd will get another dose of that this week.

Rhode Island coach Jim Fleming, the former University of Central Florida defensive coordinator, will be coaching his first game for the Rams. His quarterback, redshirt freshman Mack Lowrie, is a Boston College transfer. His tailback, senior Lyle McCombs, is a Connecticut transfer who gained 2,681 yards in his Huskies career.

Offensive coordinator Bill Legg said quest to learn about Saturday's opponent hasn't been easy.

"Less than I knew about Miami," he said of the result.

Like last week in preparing for Miami, Marshall has mashed together film from many of the coaching staff's other stops. The offense watched Kent State film from when Fleming and defensive coordinator Pete Rekstis were there. It watched UCF film from Fleming's tenure as Knights defensive coordinator and Florida Atlantic film from when Rekstis was defensive coordinator there.

What made it tougher was Marshall's difficulty finding Rhode Island film to get a better idea of the Rams' personnel. With Miami, the Herd knew what they were getting for the most part, as they opened the 2013 season with the RedHawks. "But at the end of the day, it's about playing sound, fundamental football and understanding the concepts. We've seen every defense from our defense known to man. We're giving them every defense we could think of last week. We're again giving them every defense we can think of this week. We're just going to have to keep it sound and simple and figure it out on the run." Holliday thought the team did a pretty good job of getting things figured out. In last Saturday's fourth quarter, Marshall outgained Miami 124-59 and held the RedHawks to minus-4 yards rushing. That's the mark of a veteran group, he said.

"I thought our kids all hung together," he said. "The leadership on this team kind of held everything together and it wasn't a panic. We knew we were going to win this football game. It was just a matter of getting a couple of things corrected and find a way to win it there, and we did."

Those veterans, including redshirt junior Van Horn, are reinforcing the notion this week that there can be no letting up. The Herd got away with it versus Miami. The players don't want to see a repeat performance.

"I promise you," Van Horn said, "we'll never come out in the second half looking like that again."

Contact sportswriter Derek Redd at derek.redd@dailymailwv.com or 304-348-1712. His blog is at blogs.charlestondailymail.com/marshall. Follow him on Twitter @derekredd.

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Chuck McGill: A look at the MEC's first year and the promising future ahead http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140904/DM03/140909583 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140904/DM03/140909583 Thu, 4 Sep 2014 22:59:56 -0400 CHARLESTON, W.Va. - It is the eve of the opening Saturday of the second season of Mountain East Conference football, a sport that heavily influenced the birth of the new Division II league two summers ago.

It seems apropos to take a peek back at the first year of MEC athletics and look forward to what lies ahead for the NCAA's newest D-II league.

The league's commissioner, Reid Amos, can't help but gush about what the league accomplished in its inaugural season - inside and outside the lines.

"The driving force in the creation of the NCAA's newest Division II conference, the Mountain East, was to create an association among institutions that had similar goals, similar enrollments, budgets and philosophies, and similar capacities to compete," Amos said. "When you have such similarities among your membership, you not only have a league that is very competitive, but you have a great advantage in developing a high level of cooperation among the membership."

This has been the case since decision-makers sat down and discussed the viability of continuing as West Virginia Conference members or breaking away and starting a clean slate in a new league. They chose the latter, of course, and it looks like a wise move.

"While we want competition to be fierce in MEC play, off the playing field our membership has done an outstanding job of working together for mutual benefit during the MEC's infancy," Amos said.

The member schools had to cope with the one-year loss of NCAA enhancement money and a two-year loss of automatic qualifier status, but it could've been more challenging. Had the league waited another day to apply, the loss of enhancement money would've been for 24 months instead of 12, and automatic qualifier status would've been gone for five years.

The league receives $122,000 in conference grant money and $160,000 in enhancement money (about $10,000 per championship sport the league offered in the first year).

"Starting from a clean slate allowed us to develop a strategic plan based on a shared vision among our institutions," Amos said. "It's been very difficult; it's been what seems like a sprint for the past 18 months. But to see our rapid development and to see the accomplishments of our member institutions have had in just one year has made all the hard work well worth it."

Amos watched as the league had a national finalist in men's basketball (West Liberty), national semifinalist in volleyball (Wheeling Jesuit), national quarterfinalist in football (Shepherd), and Notre Dame College won the national wrestling championship, although the MEC does not yet have enough to sponsor the sport.

The league now sponsors 17 championship sports with women's lacrosse added. The league is one team short in order to sponsor men's and women's swimming and men's and women's track. That makes 21 championship sports a realistic goal.

That's a league that cares about a lot more than football, but that remains a sport central to the Mountain East's story.

There was genuine concern that football would cease to exist at WVC schools within a decade because of the increased cost of travel. If a school departed the league and member schools were forced to schedule more non-conference games, how would each athletic department make room in the budget? WVC teams were, at times, traveling to Missouri, Illinois, South Carolina and Connecticut for non-conference games.

The increased costs could, ostensibly, have a trickle-down effect throughout an athletic department.

"Football was certainly a very important part of the equation in the formation of the MEC," Amos said. "Many NCAA Division II conferences are playing fewer non-conference games, which makes finding non-conference game difficult to accomplish, particularly in this region of the country. The MEC's 10-game conference schedule helped our institutions enchance conference competition while controlling their costs."

"In an era where more colleges are fielding football programs than ever before, the most likely scenario that leads to a football program ceasing operations is that expenses grow out of control," Amos added. "A common way for that to happen in Division II is too many non-conference games that require significant travel. This solves many scheduling issues and allows our institutions to better control their costs.

"Solving this problem doesn't only benefit football, it benefits all our sports. If costs would have continued to escalate for our football programs, this could have had a very negative effect on the fiscal health of the overwhelming majority, if not all, of our programs."

The league, however, is young and healthy entering its second year. It should be a satisfying position for the MEC just 27 months after the decision was made to pursue a new conference, back when the chief decision-makers weighed what to even call the three-state league.

There were seven or eight names bandied about. Appalachian Mountain Conference was one. American Mideast was another.

Mountain East felt just right.

Amos feels like that applies to everything with the league these days.

"When you combine that fact with the competitive balance of the MEC and ensuring long-term viability of football as a group, our 12-member conference has created a strong association," he said.

So, what's next? The nine former WVC schools that make up the league won more than 85 percent of the former league's championships when compared to the other six schools that headed elsewhere. That's a strong foundation for a league that is only going to grow more stable.

"I'm not shy in saying that we want to be one of the top NCAA Division II leagues in the country," Amos said. "We strongly believe we are well positioned to be competitive regionally and nationally in many of our 17 NCAA recognized championship sports.

"We don't want to be figuring out how to catch up, we want to be exceeding standards of quality at the NCAA Division II level and with continued support and cooperation among our membership, we will achieve those goals."

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Capital gets first win in shutout http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140904/DM03/140909584 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140904/DM03/140909584 Thu, 4 Sep 2014 22:57:24 -0400 By Chris Wade SOUTH CHARLESTON, W.Va. - The Capital girls soccer team won their first game of the season on Thursday night, and although it may not have been how they envisioned, they gladly accepted it.

The Cougars knocked off South Charleston 2-0 at the Trace Fork Soccer Complex in a game that was called due to lightning, to improve to 1-3-1.

Capital led the Black Eagles at halftime when lightning popped up around the area. An automatic 30-minute delay was required with every strike, and after a delay and with another game to follow, the officials and school administrators call the game, giving the Cougars the win.

"A win is a win, I just told them, and we will take it," Capital first year coach Susan Garrison said. "I'm excited. Having it in the conference as well, that helps. I told them to take the momentum and go forward with it."

"I'm kind of happy," said Capital's Ally Reeves, the leading returning goal scorer on the team from last season. "It wasn't exactly the win I wanted but a win is a win. It definitely will give us some confidence. It's something to look forward to."

In the first half, Ashley Fisher scored the first goal of the game for Capital with 22:34 left off an assist from Reeves. About a minute later, Jada Joseph tallied the second goal off an assist from Fisher.

After three seasons of playing right around the .500 mark with records of 10-10-1, 11-10-1, and 10-11-1, Capital took a minor step back last season with a 6-14-1 finish.

The Cougars are a youthful team, and don't have a senior on the roster. That gives Garrison and the players hope for the future.

"We have an incredible amount of potential," Garrison said. "We have a really young team. We are heavy on freshmen, and don't have a senior. We have eight juniors, eight freshman, and five sophomore.

"They are all in. We have a lot of voices this season. They are distributing leadership and all are stepping up. We tell them what we want and they take it on. We are happy with that."

Garrison has noticed drastic improvement since the beginning of the season.

"In reality, we were kind of flat and acted like we weren't sure of what we were doing at first," Garrison said. "That is why we have been so encouraged by their play and upbeat attitude. They aren't negative with each other. They have come a long way."

Despite their struggles last season, Capital was able to develop one of the top goal scorers in the area in Reeves, who netted 22 last year as just a sophomore. Garrison has noticed defenses trying to key more on Reeves.

"Defenses are definitely marking her more," Garrison said. "She wasn't the most vocal but is getting much better. She captains and leads through her actions very often. She is just now learning to take on the role of being our speaking captain, too."

Despite more attention, Reeves is hoping for another successful season, just like a year ago.

"As a freshman, I only got around 12 goals," Reeves said. "To get 22 last year was a really big accomplishment. Hopefully it will be around that again this year."

Reeves started playing soccer around age 4, and has been playing travel ball since around age eight. She indicated the desire to hope to play in college, and has visited several top camps already such as West Virginia, High Point and Cincinnati.

With Reeves being a solid goal scorer for Capital, Garrison has stressed to the players more of an emphasis on the offensive side of the field, especially with one of the top goalkeepers around in Hannah Jack.

"This will be Hannah's third year," Garrison said. "Last year she was hurt. She sat out quite a while with a broken leg. She has come back, and has worked a lot. She has really put in the dedication, and it shows.

"I told them you can't win a game if you can't score a goal. Our increase in shots on goal from the first few games to the last two is phenomenal. They are getting that confidence in taking those shots."

While Garrison is in her first year coaching the Cougars, she has been a teacher at the school for seven years. She has plenty of coaching experience with more than 20 years at numerous levels.

One of the newest attributes she has brought to the team is more film study of the Capital games, which Garrison indicated is paying huge dividends.

"We have started watching film, which I don't think they have done in the past. They are very amazed at what they see. It is a learning experience for them and it is huge," Garrison said. "They each have a notebook and take notes. They have a workout plan and other important information. Then they make comments as they watch film and after they play. It is their job to take notes and share with the team. It is theirs

and their ownership."

Reeves is very happy to have Garrison on board, and is excited for both the present and future for Capital.

"We definitely have a young squad," Reeves said. "The next few years I think we will be good to go. We have really good players and a solid squad."

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MEC FOOTBALL: Avery leads UC defense into season opener http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140904/DM03/140909585 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140904/DM03/140909585 Thu, 4 Sep 2014 22:53:28 -0400

By JACOB MESSER

FOR THE DAILY MAIL

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - If he has anything to do with it, University of Charleston football player Justin Avery's senior season will be the best of his college career.

"It sounds cliché, but everyone wants to go out with a bang," said Avery, a 6-foot-1, 240-pound middle linebacker for the Mountain East Conference program. "I put myself in a position mentally and physically to perform at a high level this year. I think my coaches and teammates are expecting big things from me this year as well."

Avery was the Golden Eagles' second-leading tackler last season, trailing only departed first-team all-conference linebacker Matt Kelly.

Avery finished 2013 with 69 tackles, six less than Kelly. He also recorded five tackles for losses, two sacks, two pass breakups, one forced fumble and one interception.

Kelly was an all-conference first-team selection, while Avery was a second-team pick.

"He probably deserved first team," UC coach Pat Kirkland said of Avery, who is one of seven returning starters on the Golden Eagles' defense.

Avery very well could end up on the all-conference first team this season, which begins Saturday when UC travels to Buckhannon to face West Virginia Wesleyan in an MEC matchup.

League coaches picked the Golden Eagles and Bobcats to finish third and fifth in the league, respectively.

"I'm expecting pretty big things for us," said Avery, a Class of 2010 recruit who came to UC from Hopewell High School in Charlotte, N.C. "We have a lot of guys coming back for us defensively."

Among the returning starters are two first-team all-conference selections (junior defensive lineman Demetrius Reddick and junior defensive back Isaiah Gibson) and three second-team all-conference selections (Avery, junior defensive lineman Rockford Stone and sophomore defensive back Torie Wagner). Also back are senior weakside linebacker Nathaniel Berry and senior defensive lineman Shane Robinson.

Gibson (53) and Berry (52) were the Golden Eagles' third- and fourth-leading tacklers in 2013. Stone had 11.5 tackles for loss, four sacks and four quarterback hurries to lead UC in all three categories.

The Golden Eagles allowed 19.2 points and 308 total yards per game in 2013.

Kirkland said Avery is the leader of the linebackers, which might be the most experienced and talented group on the team.

Joining Avery and Berry are fellow seniors Matt Duncan and Zach Wellman.

"We all know what we are doing," said Avery, who played quarterback in high school but was recruited to play defense in college. "We understand the schemes and know how to adjust based on what we are seeing."

Duncan returns at strongside linebacker after suffering a season-ending injury (torn bicep) in the Golden Eagles' first game last year. Wellman, a Huntington native and Spring Valley High School graduate who transferred from Marshall University, is a valuable reserve who will spell Avery, Berry and Duncan.

"Having him is a great help," Avery said of Wellman. "We have the next-man-up mentality. As soon as we need someone, he can fill in without us missing a beat. He mainly plays the Sam and Will, but he can play the Mike if he needs to."

Avery is nearing the end of his college career, academically and athletically. He will graduate in December with his master's degree in business administration (MBA). A double major, he already has bachelor's degrees in business and finance.

"I had a few looks from Division I-AA schools, but I was their No. 2 guy, and they all signed their No. 1 guys," Avery said. "UC was just the best fit for me. It worked out great."

If professional football isn't in his future, Avery plans to pursue a career in wealth management or financial planning.

"It's nice to have options," said Avery, whose long-term goal is to become a general manager of a company. "It's nice to be able to control your own destiny."

Avery has served as an intern at Cygnus Asset Management in his hometown the past four summers. His mother works at the investment firm, which kickstarted his interest in business and finance.

"And I was always good with numbers," he said.

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The Greenbrier to build tennis stadium http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140904/DM05/140909653 DM05 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140904/DM05/140909653 Thu, 4 Sep 2014 16:42:48 -0400 By Jared Hunt The Greenbrier on Thursday announced plans to add a 2,500-seat tennis stadium to the resort, just months after building a football training camp.

The new 46,000-square-foot tennis facility, called Center Court at Creekside, is expected to be complete by June.

The facility will build upon The Greenbrier's existing tennis traditions.

The resort will host its third annual Tennis Champions Classic Sept. 20 and 21. The event will feature tennis stars Pete Sampras (the resort's tennis pro emeritus), John McEnroe, Andy Roddick and Ryan Harrison.

"We are so excited to be able to take the already top-of-the-line tennis facilities at The Greenbrier to a whole new level," resort owner Jim Justice said in a press release.

"With folks like Pete Sampras as our resident tennis pro emeritus and such legends as tennis hall of farmer John McEnroe and former world No. 1 Andy Roddick as our guests, it was only right that The Greenbrier should have the premier resort tennis stadium in the U.S. to call its own."

Center Court at Creekside has been designed by Detroit-based architectural firm ROSSETTI. The U-shaped stadium will sit along Howard's Creek, overlooking The Old White TPC golf course, home to the annual Greenbrier Classic PGA tournament. The architecture will match The Greenbrier's other facilities.

"It's been a real pleasure to match the rich sporting heritage at The Greenbrier with a unique professional-level stadium to enhance the tennis viewing experience for patrons," said Matt Rossetti, president of ROSSETTI.

"The beautiful natural setting is a real asset to the design that we don't normally encounter," Rossetti said. "It will be a stand-out experience for Greenbrier guests and players and will continue its tradition as one of the finest sporting resorts in the U.S."

The court will be surfaced with Har-Tru clay. There will also be a plaza between the creek and court that will accommodate court side hospitality tents and additional grandstand seating. It will also offer up to 400 corporate box seats, professional lighting options and areas for broadcast cameras.

The tennis facility is the second new sports facility added to The Greenbrier this year.

Earlier this summer, The Greenbrier opened its $20 million, 55,000 square foot football practice facility, which served as the training camp for the New Orleans Saints.

Contact writer Jared Hunt at business@dailymailwv.com or 304-348-4836.

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PREP SOCCER: Winfield, George Washington girls play to draw http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140903/DM03/140909693 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140903/DM03/140909693 Wed, 3 Sep 2014 22:58:50 -0400 CHARLESTON, W.Va. - The two time defending state champion Winfield girls soccer team got a huge test from George Washington with the two perennial powers ending in a 2-2 tie Wednesday evening at the Trace Fork soccer complex.

Jayne and Mary Lawman each scored a goal for Winfield, while Katherine Eddy and Hattie Davis scored a goal each for George Washington.

Olivia Miller saved four shots on goal in the game for the Patriots and the Generals' Hailey Evans stopped three shots on goal. After the tie, Winfield is now 3-0-3 on the season, while GW is now 1-0-1.

n n

Herbert Hoover 7, Scott 0 - The Huskies remained undefeated with a 7-0 home rout of the Skyhawks, behind the strong play of Taylor Bailey and Hannah Schoolcraft.

Both Bailey and Schoolcraft had two goals and assists in leading Hoover (4-0) to the win. Cassie Hammes also netted two goals and Megan Holt scored the other. Bailey Aab and Kirsten Belcher combined for the shutout.

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Spring Valley 3, Capital 0 -The Timberwolves had great balance with three different players netting their goals in the road win.

Piper White, Loren Hall, and Canaan Booten all scored for Spring Valley and Kinley Hazelett made eight saves. Hannah Jack had seven saves for Capital.

n n

And in boys high school soccer Wednesday:

Herbert Hoover 1, Scott 1 -After the Huskies scored in the first half, the Skyhawks netted the equalizer in the second and both teams settled for the draw at Hoover.

Jeremy Hammes scored for Hoover off an assist from Josh Coleman with 12:21 left in the first half and Michael Miller tallied the Scott goal with 28:40 remaining in the game. Brett Strickland made four saves for Hoover 1-3-1. Scott is now 3-0-1.

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St. Albans 8, Lincoln County 1 -The Red Dragons got huge efforts from Caleb Myers and Austin Lizarraga in earning the easy home win.

Myers scored four goals, including three within the first 13 minutes of the game while Lizarraga had three assists and scored a goal as well. Matthew Strickland, Josh Asseff, and Brian Knight also scored for St. Albans. Mark Neace tallied the Lincoln County goal.

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PREP GOLF: Scott wins Cardinal Conference title http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140903/DM03/140909694 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140903/DM03/140909694 Wed, 3 Sep 2014 22:58:48 -0400 Scott High School won the Cardinal Conference golf tournament Wednesday at Twisted Gun, with Josh Price leading the way for the Skyhawks.

Price earned all-conference honors, shooting an 85 to help Scott (366) hold off Chapmanville (378).

Mingo Central finished third, followed by Herbert Hoover, Wayne, Poca, and Sissonville. Jake Workman from Chapmanville and Garrett Bevins from Mingo Central shot an individual low score of 79.

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POWER BASEBALL: Marco honored by South Atlantic League http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140903/DM03/140909695 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140903/DM03/140909695 Wed, 3 Sep 2014 22:58:46 -0400 CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Adam Marco, the West Virginia Power's director of marketing and media and play-by-play broadcaster, was named the South Atlantic League's media relations director of the year Wednesday. The award is voted on through a poll of league officials, team owners, team presidents, general managers and field managers.

Marco, a native of Leechburg, Pa., just completed his fifth season with the Power.

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Derek Redd: C-USA slate could get trickier for Marshall http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140903/DM03/140909702 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140903/DM03/140909702 Wed, 3 Sep 2014 22:11:07 -0400 CHARLESTON, W.Va. - For anyone who thought Marshall's 2014 season would be a straight-line march right into the Peach Bowl, the path might not be as clear and as open as originally thought. And it doesn't have to do with the Thundering Herd's 42-27 win over Miami (Ohio) in its season opener.

It has plenty to do with some of the other scores around Conference USA.

The University of Texas at San Antonio staked its claim as the favorite to win the West Division with a 27-7 thumping of Houston in the Cougars' brand spanking new stadium. And Western Kentucky showed how tough it will be to outscore the Hilltoppers by scorching Bowling Green, 59-31.

Many took notice of those results, including Marshall coach Doc Holliday, and he probably didn't even need the text message from C-USA senior associate commissioner Alfred White to pique his interest.

"UTSA was tremendous," Holliday said. "I think Houston was picked to win the (American Athletic Conference), opened up a new stadium and all the excitement, and they got their tails kicked.

"I thought Bowling Green had everybody back," he continued. "and was picked to win the (Mid-American Conference) by a lot of people, I think. And Western Kentucky just waxed them. Our conference is a good conference."

A good conference top to bottom? Eh, that might be stretching it a bit. C-USA went 0-5 against power conference opponents and lost those games by an average margin of more than 38 points. And then there's Florida International, who lost to Football Championship Subdivision foe Bethune-Cookman for the second straight year.

So the conference, at least in the first week, dealt with the same problems it often has - bad days versus tougher competition and the fact that the lower rungs of its football ladder are subterranean. Yet there are pockets of potential scattered throughout C-USA, and that's good news for Marshall in its quest for the first "Group of Five" berth in this season's marquee bowls.

The drawback that nearly everyone mentions in Marshall's season is a weak schedule. College football pundit Phil Steele loves the Herd's chances this season, picking it to play in the Fiesta Bowl. He's not a fan of Marshall's schedule strength, ranking it 125th out of 128. That's what happens when Marshall's 2014 date with Louisville gets pushed back to 2016 and the replacement is Rhode Island, an FCS team that's gone 6-28 in its last three seasons.

The antidote is a stouter conference slate and, at least early on, that wasn't looking good either. Then the Roadrunners shellacked an American title contender and WKU trounced the MAC favorite. Plus, there seem to be some opportunities for C-USA teams to perform well against some lower-level power conference teams.

Old Dominion visits a North Carolina State team that needed a pair of fourth-quarter touchdowns to beat Georgia Southern. Western Kentucky visits Illinois, who trailed FCS Youngstown State in the fourth quarter. Would beating either of those teams be like beating Alabama? Of course not, but wins there would help erase the notion that C-USA teams can't hang.

Plus, North Texas hosts American opponent Southern Methodist and, since the American is considered by many to be the strongest of the Group of Five conferences, C-USA needs as many wins against that conference as it can.

Now back to Marshall. Old Dominion and Western Kentucky are on the regular-season schedule. Marshall wouldn't face UTSA unless the two met in the conference title game. Wins against those squads, especially if they continue their strong runs out of the first week, could ease any doubts the selection committee would have with an undefeated Marshall compared to a one- or two-loss American team.

That being said, the road to that potential undefeated season looks a little bumpier than it did about two weeks ago.

Navigate those bumps, though, and the Herd has a better chance of getting what it wants come bowl season.

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WVU FOOTBALL: Trickett tries to gain momentum vs. Towson http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140903/DM03/140909703 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140903/DM03/140909703 Wed, 3 Sep 2014 22:08:34 -0400 By Mike Casazza MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - If last week was Clint Trickett's second chance to make a first impression, Saturday's game against Towson is his first shot at a second opportunity.

West Virginia's 7:30 p.m. home game at Mountaineer Field (Root Sports) will be the senior's ninth start with the Mountaineers. That one, on the heels of his personal-best 365 yards passing in the season opener against No. 2 Alabama, will be the first time he's been able to take momentum forward.

"That's definitely a positive, and not just for me, but for the whole team," Trickett said. "Everyone's understanding of the offense is improved, including mine, and that will help us all. It'll help the team win games and it'll help individuals in their careers moving forward."

Trickett was injured at the end of his winning performance in his first start against Oklahoma State last season. That drained the excitement from the win just when it seemed WVU had found a fit with the third starter of the season, because everyone knew he couldn't be quite the same the rest of the way.

He was as healthy as he'd get for the Iowa State game, where he passed for 356 yards, but that was the final game of the season, and he'd have three injuries to his throwing shoulder repaired in the offseason.

Trickett was named the starter June 24, and the loss to the Crimson Tide, in which he completed 29 of 45 passes, dropped his record to 2-6 as the starter. He's just never been positioned for success like he his now with a healthy body and a potent mind that combine to control the offense.

The way the Mountaineers feel about their quarterback and their offense before his second start this season is much different from how they felt before his second start last season.

"He'd probably admit this, too, but his focus and his ability and willingness to come in here and spend a lot of hours with us on days he really doesn't have to, that's increased," offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Shannon Dawson said. "That's a product of being happy. A lot of times after he got here (last year), it didn't unfold exactly like he wanted it to unfold.

"I had conversations with him about that last year, though. He started the Oklahoma State game and I talked to him about it before that game. 'Things in life seldom happen the way you want them to. That's how it is. You've got to take what's given to you and make the best of it.'"

n n n

JORDAN THOMPSON wasn't guilty of the incomprehensible. He was a witness to it.

The junior receiver is also WVU's punt returner, a job he won and secured last season because he caught punts that others had let bounce to surrender field position. Thompson also had a habit of catching punts too close to his goal line, and he seemed to do the same against Alabama.

WVU's defense forced a punt in Alabama territory and figured to take over in a good spot, but Thompson ended up catching the punt over his shoulder at his 11-yard line and getting tackled at the 6.

Thompson was as shocked as anyone else, but for a wholly different reason. Alabama punter J.K Scott punted the ball 73 yards - 62 on the official kick, plus the 11 yards he was standing behind the line of scrimmage when he made contact.

"It was his first college kick," Thompson said. "That's a true freshman back there punting the ball for the first time. We saw him punt in the pregame. Forty-five yards. He's not going to boot it 70 yards."

Scott did and caught Thompson off-guard, something Thompson had no problem admitting.

"I was originally at the 35-yard line," he said. "I was already 45 yards deep when I went back, and then I lost count. In my head, I'm thinking, 'All right, he out-kicked his coverage. I'm going to have time to catch it and turn around and they'll probably be 40 yards out.' After looking at it on film, they were 40 yards away - except the two gunners. The gunners were right on me."

Thompson didn't expect that, either. He knew one was close because he heard safety Landon Collins yelling, but since the kick was on the left, Thompson didn't expect the gunner on the right side to also be down there after a long kick.

"The first guy wrapped me up and then the other dude was there and got me," he said. "When I got up, I was like, 'Dang.' "

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SOPHOMORE CORNERBACK Darly Worley was similarly impressed with Alabama receiver Amari Cooper, who caught 12 passes for 130 yards and "might be the first overall pick in the draft," according to Mountaineers coach Dana Holgorsen said.

"Great guy, great opponent, great sportsmanship - everything he's billed up to be, he was it," Worley said. "It was a great experience for me being younger getting to take on a guy like that. If anything, it boosts my expectations because if I was able to go against a guy like that every play, there's no reason I shouldn't be able to take on any other guy."

Worley made nine tackles, but missed many tackles in the first half before fixing that after halftime. He said he was perhaps too prepared, which made him anxious and led to plays where Cooper got Worley out of position. That improved, too, and Worley's patience led to an interception with WVU trailing 30-23 in the fourth quarter.

Worley left Cooper to go after a pass to tight end O.J. Howard. It was the first ball thrown to Howard, but Worley recognized it from his film study and waited until quarterback Blake Sims made the throw Worley expected.

Worley brought the interception back from the Alabama 41 to the 31, but a questionable holding call against linebacker Wes Tonkery gave WVU possession at its 49. Worley said he didn't see the hold, but "at the same time, I shouldn't have even taken the ball to that side of the field. I should have taken it up the near sideline."

Contact sportswriter Mike Casazza at mikec@dailymailwv.com or 304-319-1142. His blog is at blogs.charlestondailymail.com/wvu. Follow him on Twitter at @mikecasazza.

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Mike Casazza: Odd stack is back for WVU http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140903/DM03/140909704 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140903/DM03/140909704 Wed, 3 Sep 2014 22:07:49 -0400 MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - At his press conference last week designed to preview Alabama, Dana Holgorsen deceived the audience. He knew it and knew the onlookers wouldn't realize until later.

There was a question about preparing for the Crimson Tide and however they might behave under the guidance of new offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin, and perhaps also head coach Nick Saban. There was an answer that touched two topics.

"I think both us defensively and Alabama offensively are in a similar situation where it's not a wholesale change," he said, reminding the cameras, recorders and notepads he'd promoted Tony Gibson to replace departed defensive coordinator Keith Patterson.

"One of the reasons I wanted Tony to take over the defense was because he was with coach Patterson last year, and he was with coach Patterson three years ago. I can assure you that when coach Saban hired coach Kiffin, it wasn't, 'I want you to change the entire thing.' "

Good answer, but ultimately rubbish. An explanation follows, but let's first understand the lengths to which WVU was and is still willing to go to preserve the misidentity of its defense. Hours after Holgorsen said that, and a day after Saban quizzically claimed WVU would use the "odd stack which they've had success with in the past," Gibson threw up a similar, soldierly stiff arm.

He said WVU was an "odd front" defense that would play with three defensive linemen, but that "we're multiple."

"I'm telling you guys," he told inquisitors, "you'll get to see it in however many plays we're out there. We'll look like a 3-4, we'll look like a 3-3-5, we'll look like a 5-3."

After seeing it for 92 plays inside the Georgia Dome, here's the deal: WVU again has an odd stack 3-3-5 defense.

No more 3-4. No more "multiple" looks, at least not in the sense that suggests the Mountaineers are willing to change their buckskins and swap personnel to turn into a 3-4, 4-3, 4-4 or 5-3. Offenses might get those looks, but because of the way the 3-3-5 changes its alignment instead of its players.

WVU is using three defensive linemen - and "odd" front - and three linebackers - in a varying "stack" behind the linemen - with five defensive backs. One defensive back - the spur - is going to be around the line of scrimmage a lot and probably create the impression he's a fourth linebacker or fourth defensive lineman. The other safety - the bandit - can do the same and make it look like WVU has four or five linemen or linebackers.

This is what the Mountaineers used with gradual success and eventually fantastic results from 2002-11. This is why Gibson was promoted. It's why former WVU linebacker Anthony Leonard was hired as a graduate assistant who works with the linebackers. It's what older players like linebackers Wes Tonkery and Nick Kwiatkoski have played before and why they've so far excelled. It's why Karl Joseph moved from free safety to the more impactful bandit. It's why coaches have asked K.J. Dillon to study tapes of spurs from years ago.

The past is WVU's future, and in the past the Mountaineers did very well recruiting to the 3-3-5. While they've changed conferences, they haven't changed their luck recruiting defensive linemen. The 3-3-5 is a workaround where high school safeties become college linebackers, linebackers become ends and ends become nose guards.

What else was the odd stack known for? It's what you saw against Alabama. The Mountaineers had a hard time with the run - some of that was a linebacker or a safety getting exploited out of (a new) position - and they gave up big gains on third downs - and some of that was the result of missed blitzes.

But WVU's linebackers rarely lined up in the same spot on successive plays and Tonkery, playing the key Sam position on the strong side, did a good job with leverage against the run, which was one reason why Kwiatkoski and Joseph had so many tackles. The defensive backs kept almost all of the passes in front of them and the defense bent (more than 500 yards) but didn't break (four field goals, three in the red zone).

"I liked what I saw, and I loved the kids' effort," Gibson said, though without abandoning the creed that insists this remains an unspoken change.

The odd stack was also known to confuse opponents because it's so nuanced, and WVU did scramble Alabama and spring a bunch of blitzers unblocked to the quarterback. None of them made the play, but that's another story for another day.

The list of teams running the true odd stack is short and honestly might not have more than Arizona, where former WVU defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel rejoined Rich Rodriguez, and WVU. The Mountaineers did play some 3-3-5 the past two years, but what Casteel and Gibson do is different. They were there for its creation and they don't talk much about it. It causes problems because no one else runs it like they do.

The list of teams running the 3-4 is significantly longer, especially in the Big 12. As good as the odd stack was in the Big East, it's probably better suited to succeed in the Big 12. It features and rewards athleticism and speed, hence the extra defensive back in place of a linebacker or defensive lineman. And you better have fast athletes to defend the pass in this conference or, well, you might look a lot like the Mountaineers did the past two years.

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MARSHALL FOOTBALL: Rams' Bose tries to steady URI http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140903/DM03/140909706 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140903/DM03/140909706 Wed, 3 Sep 2014 22:06:13 -0400 By Derek Redd CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Entering his third year as a starter, Rhode Island linebacker Andrew Bose has seen plenty of ups and downs. He's had personal triumphs, being named to the 2013 all-Colonial Athletic Conference second team and this year's preseason all-CAA team. But those have been coupled with the Rams' overall struggles, as the team has gone 6-28 in his previous three seasons on the roster.

This season brings new opportunities with a new coaching staff - former University of Central Florida defensive coordinator Jim Fleming is the Rams' new head coach - and new players at key positions. Bose remains in his usual spot, though, and is ready to help the Rams transition into their new era Saturday, when they visit Marshall in the Thundering Herd's home opener and the Rams' season opener (7 p.m., WVAH).

"It's not only me, but a lot of other seniors who have been a part of the program," Bose said. "We expect guys to jump on board and get the memo of how things should work and how things should fall in place."

There are 10 seniors among the starting offensive and defensive rosters for Rhode Island, but none more decorated than Bose, the only Rams player on the preseason all-conference team. He earned that honor on the strength of his 76-tackle performance last season, even though he missed four games.

Included in that 2013 resume is a 17-tackle game in an overtime win versus Albany, after which he was named both CAA defensive player of the week and the Sports Network Football Championship Subdivision national defensive player of the week. Bose missed the first quarter of that game.

Offensively, Fleming is breaking in a new quarterback, Boston College transfer Mack Lowrie, and a new running back, Connecticut transfer Lyle McCombs, who has 2,681 career rushing yards with the Huskies. With the upheaval on offense, Fleming said its good to have a veteran like Bose on defense to keep things steady.

"It's nice to have a guy who's been through the wars that, if things get sideways, he can settle things down," Fleming said. "We've got a good corps of guys that are going to come in and play hard. But it's great to have a guy like Bose whose got the experience, got a little bit of swag, and can come in and settle us down when things get going badly."

The Rams already could look toward Bose's on-field performances for inspiration. He's 30 tackles shy from 200 for his career, and only two Rhode Island players, Matt Hansen and Virgil Gray, have reached that mark since 2002. Bose also is trying to bolster his leadership with what he says and how he says it, on top of what he does.

"I'd definitely say that, with me taking on a role as a leader of this football team, I've tried to become more vocal toward the team and be more communicative on the field and off the field and just always be that guy that people can look up to. We all hold each other to a high standard and are all counting on each other to do their jobs."

His job won't be easy this weekend. Marshall scored 42 points in its season-opening win at Miami (Ohio), the highest point total of any road team in the Football Bowl Subdivision last week. Now the Herd returns to Joan C. Edwards Stadium, where it went undefeated last season and averaged nearly 53 points a game in doing so.

Fleming said he'll especially need Bose this Saturday.

"He's going to have his hands full," he said. "There are going to be some matchup deals where he's going to have to play extremely well and handle his responsibilities. So we're counting on, from each of our guys, performance and execution."

While the Herd doesn't have much to go by in terms of background with Rhode Island - Marshall is cobbling together film of the coaching staff's previous stops, much like last week versus Miami - Bose doesn't think that element of surprise will completely stymie it. Marshall, he said, is too talented and experienced to let that happen.

"At the end of the day, whatver elements come and whatever happens, they're going to be ready to play, regardless of what's thrown at them," he said.

Contact sportswriter Derek Redd at derek.redd@dailymailwv.com or 304-348-1712. His blog is at blogs.charlestondailymail.com/marshall. Follow him on Twitter @derekredd.

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MEC FOOTBALL: Figueroa, Shannon anchor W.Va. State's line http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140903/DM03/140909707 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140903/DM03/140909707 Wed, 3 Sep 2014 22:04:44 -0400

By JACOB MESSER

FOR THE DAILY MAIL

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - When his football team started preseason practice last month, West Virginia State coach Jon Anderson had to assemble the Yellow Jackets' offensive line like a jigsaw puzzle.

He had to find the right piece and the right fit to make it come together.

Left tackle Ricardo Figueroa and right guard Dalton Shannon served as the corner pieces, allowing Anderson to build around the returning starters.

"The important thing for us to do since Day One was build an offensive line," said Anderson, whose inaugural year with the Yellow Jackets was a winless season. "You win football games by being physical on the line of scrimmage on offense and defense. They have been part of that plan since Day One."

Figueroa is a 6-foot-3, 285-pound senior from Bakersfield, Calif. Shannon is a 6-2, 300-pound sophomore from Ockalawa, Fla. Both are second-year players who signed with the Yellow Jackets in 2013, with Figueroa coming from Bakersfield College and Shannon coming from Belleview High School.

"We are fortunate to have both of them back," Anderson said of Figueroa and Shannon, both of whom started every game for the Yellow Jackets last season. "They are two guys we can build around. We are working real hard to find the best combination of players and the best pieces to the puzzle."

Expected to join Figueroa and Shannon in the starting lineup Saturday are Zack Alvirdrez, a 6-0, 305-pound junior left guard from Lakewood (Calif.) Junior College; Nicholas Dreixler, a 6-3, 280-pound redshirt freshman center from Mount Carmel (Ind.) High School; and Jerry Williams, a 6-4, 285-pound freshman right tackle who transferred from Ohio University.

"I feel like they are jelling really well with us," Shannon said.

Figueroa and Shannon complement each other. Figueroa leads with actions, while Shannon leads with words.

"That is just the way I was raised," said Figueroa, who was an all-conference honorable mention selection last year. "I have never been a vocal guy. I have always tried to lead by example. Dalton is the vocal leader. He has come a long way since last year."

Shannon agreed.

"I try to step up as the verbal leader because I'm more outgoing than Ricardo," Shannon said. "It's tough because I'm the young guy, but I have to lead as well because I have a year under my belt. Ricardo holds the team together. He is always doing what he is supposed to do on and off the field."

Coming off an 0-11 season in 2013, its first under Anderson and in the Mountain East Conference, the Yellow Jackets were picked to finish last in the 11-team league in 2014.

"The young players are coming along," Figueroa said. "I hope they come along even more. Hopefully, we can progress where we can win some games. I believe we can. We have progressed better than we did last year. We are taking steps forward every day."

West Virginia State will try to snap its 17-game losing streak on Saturday at 1 p.m., when it plays Lock Haven (Pa.) at home in its season opener. The Yellow Jackets' last win was a 21-13 victory versus Seton Hill (Pa.) on Sept. 29, 2012, during their final season in the West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.

If the Yellow Jackets are to end their skid, they must improve their offensive numbers from last season. They averaged only 9.6 points and 248.5 total yards (170.6 passing and 77.9 rushing) per game in 2013.

"We need to be more balanced on offense," Anderson said. "That is what we strive for. We need to be equally comfortable in run blocking and pass protecting."

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THE MOUNTAIN EAST regular season kicks off Thursday when Fairmont State hosts Notre Dame College at 7 p.m.

In addition to W.Va. State's season opener, Saturday's schedule includes Glenville State at Concord (noon), UVa-Wise at Urbana (noon), Shepherd at West Liberty (1 p.m.) and Charleston at W.va. Wesleyan (1 p.m.).

Shepherd is the preseason pick to repeat as MEC champions. Charleston was voted to finish third in the 11-team league, while W.Va. State is picked to finish last.

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WVU FOOTBALL: Shell makes his mark for Mountaineers http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140902/DM03/140909829 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140902/DM03/140909829 Tue, 2 Sep 2014 21:47:07 -0400 By Mike Casazza MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - Before making his West Virginia debut Saturday, the last time Rushel Shell played in a college football game was also on a big stage in the south against a Southeastern Conference opponent. 

Of course, that was almost 20 months ago when Shell started for Pitt against Ole Miss in the BBVA Compass Bowl in Birmingham, Ala. On Saturday, Shell was the Mountaineers' starter against No. 2 Alabama in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game inside the Georgia Dome. 

On both occasions, Shell was the player featured in the backfield. He carried 23 times for 79 yards in the bowl loss and finished with 12 offensive touches for 57 yards in the 33-23 loss to the Crimson tide. After sitting out last season as a walk-on following his transfer and then battling five others for snaps and a role in the spring and summer, no player was given the ball more than Shell.

Not Kevin White, who set career-highs with nine receptions for 143 yards. Not running back Wendell Smallwood, who has long been considered the replacement for what Charles Sims did for the offense last season. Not Mario Alford, who caught five passes and returned three kickoffs and on Tuesday was named the Big 12 special teams player of the week for his 100-yard kickoff return touchdown. 

"It just felt good to line up an see someone in a different jersey and hear everyone screaming," Shell said. "It was a great thing to feel."

It had to feel weird, too. It was one thing to be in a game and working with his teammates and not against them. He wasn't a scout team star working against the starting defenders to get them ready for the next week's opponent. He wasn't working against a scout team defense designed to get him used to what he'd see from the next opponent.

He was standing across from the Crimson Tide. And on the first play, Shell was a wide receiver. WVU started with two running backs and then sent Shell out to the left and Smallwood to the right.

Shell would find himself along the line of scrimmage a few times and then running routes and attracting defenders. His two receptions came when he slipped out of the backfield, and one was an alarming display that saw him catch the pass moving up the field, juke one defender and then run over another for a gain of 19 yards.

The Mountaineers learned a lot about Shell over the past year, and they already knew him quite well as a former five-star recruit from Aliquippa, Pa. They suspected he had good ball skills as a receiver and put him with Alford on kickoffs - and WVU did that knowing teams were going to stay away from Alford, his score against Alabama notwithstanding.

Shell has nevertheless impressed with what he can do in the passing game and looks to do more of the same in Saturday's home opener. The Mountaineers (0-1) play host to Towson (0-1) at 7:30 p.m. at Mountaineer Field. The game will be televised by Root Sports.

"The surprising thing is he can get out in the flat, catch a ball, make a guy miss, run a guy over and make an explosive play," WVU coach Dana Holgorsen said. "I think we're all excited about that."

Shell finished with 10 carries for 38 yards - his first three carries produced 20 yards - and two receptions for 19 yards. When he was effective early, he was able to run through tackles and move the pile of teammates and defenders. When he was used in the passing game, he was someone Alabama had to regard.

"That Shell, that guy is a good runner, and you're going to know it before the end of this year is over," Alabama coach Nick Saban said.

Shell believes it'll come quickly now that he's been through a game and has shown what he can do with the offense. At 5-foot-10 and 210 pounds, he's a worthy complement to the 5-11, 200-pound Smallwood and can play with power behind his pads and then use his speed to be a factor elsewhere.

"Regardless if we're one-back or two-back, those guys might be in protection, but they may be in route-running as well," Holgorsen said. "That's why Wendell's role is so big. He can get involved in the passing game with whatever we want him to do. Rushel is not there yet, but that's why he's playing as much as he is, because he is able to run with authority, as we know he can, and he's able to pass protect because he's physical."

With Shell in the front, though, the running game sputtered and stalled against the Tide. Shell carried just four times for two yards after halftime, where the Mountaineers had minus-10 yards on 11 attempts - a bad snap and two sacks accounted for a loss of 29 yards. Eight carries by the running backs produced 39 yards and both numbers bothered WVU afterward.

"They're just hard to run against," Holgorsen said. "We had about 50 yards in the first half. We pulled it back and threw the screen passes, which technically is a run play. A couple of those plays down the field were run plays - we just pulled it and threw it down that way.

"It wasn't a winning performance, but it's hard to line up an average 5, 6 yards a play against those guys. They're big. They've got great depth - they played 12 defensive linemen. They've got great depth, and they get off blocks. We could have probably called a few more run plays, but I was happy with what it was. It opened up some of the pass-game numbers."

Contact sportswriter Mike Casazza at mikec@dailymailwv.com or 304-319-1142. His blog is at blogs.charlestondailymail.com/wvu.

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WVU FOOTBALL: Personnel changes evident in first game http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140902/DM03/140909830 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140902/DM03/140909830 Tue, 2 Sep 2014 21:45:11 -0400 By Mike Casazza MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - Saturday's loss to No. 2 Alabama came with two players who used to be regulars playing limited roles for West Virginia.

Sophomore receiver Daikiel Shorts, who tied for the team lead with 45 receptions last season and started nine times in 12 games, didn't start, didn't catch a pass and wasn't targeted until the fourth quarter.

The Mountaineers only started one inside receiver against the Crimson Tide and that went to Jordan Thompson, who matched a career high with five receptions and set a career high with 62 yards receiving, including a personal-best 32 yard tumbling catch.

The junior from Katy, Texas, ended preseason camp as the No. 1 inside receiver, but did drop a critical third down pass in the second quarter.

"The one catch was off the charts," WVU coach Dana Holgorsen said at his weekly press conference Tuesday. "He made a couple really good plays. He made some great catches and had a chance to make some huge catches. We evaluated Daikiel, as well. Daikiel was the next guy in."

Junior linebacker Isaiah Bruce, who led the team in tackles in 2012 and started 19 of the first 24 games of his career, hardly played defense against Alabama and "did a good job on special teams," Holgorsen said.

Senior Wes Tonkery won the starting job at the Sam linebacker position in camp and the Mountaineers didn't substitute for him, Mike linebacker Nick Kwiatkoski or Will linebacker Brandon Golson.

"We thought that Golson, Kwiatkoski and Tonkery had phenomenal camps," Holgorsen said. "They played a bunch of snaps, and they played pretty good. We've talked to Isaiah. If he wants to see the field more, then he needs to show us that he's ready to step up and see the field. That goes for all backups. Right now, you know who the backups are. It's their job to compete and show us that they can play more."

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HOLGORSEN SAID WVU used 56 players against Alabama and called it a "healthy number." Included in that group was freshman linebacker Xavier Preston, who was slipped into the game late in the first half with the Mountaineers protecting their goal line on second-and-goal from the 1. Running back T.J. Yeldon angled right, but ran into the 6-foot-2, 230-pound Preston.

"He took one snap and he had one heck of a tackle - it was just in the end zone, so they counted it as a touchdown," Holgorsen said. "It looked like he had good pop and he butted the guy up. He will continue to get more reps. He's going to be a good player."

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THE MOUNTAINEERS suffered no notable injuries in the opener, meaning they cane out healthy physically as well as mentally. They are 0-1 for the first time since 2003, and though they lost, they were not defeated.

"They came out determined, is what they came out," Holgorsen said. "They were disappointed. Coaches were disappointed. Players were disappointed. I wanted it for the fan base really bad. They're disappointed. The whole moral victory thing is if we wanted a moral victory and pats on the back, then we accomplished our goal. If we want to win championship, which is what we talk about, then the determination needs to translate into a victory the next time you line up. "

While he's encouraged by how WVU is acting after the loss, he's given more attention to the way the Mountaineers were before the game. He'd never seen one of his teams as excited to play.

"It was off the charts," he said. "Our energy throughout the course of the game was at an all-time high. The effort that our guys played with was exactly what we wanted. I told them Sunday that they set the standard for how they are going to play all year. If they can keep up that effort, that energy and that excitement, then we will have a good year.

"There are a lot of things that we need to correct after game one, as everyone does. The one thing that stood out was how we played, not necessarily the result of the game. If we can play like that all year, then we will win a lot of games."

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WVU RECEIVED SEVEN points in the Associated Press top 25 poll - 11 fewer than Marshall, which won its opener, 42-27, at Miami (Ohio). All of WVU's points came from Jon Wilner, of the San Jose (Calif.) Mercury News. He ranked the Mountaineers No. 19, one slot above where he had Marshall.

Wilner, who had Marshall ranked No. 15 in the preseason poll, also introduced Oklahoma State in his poll this week at No. 11 following a 37-31 loss to top-ranked Florida State in Dallas.

"Maybe the Mountaineers are much better than they were last year ... and much better than everyone expected them to be this year ... and Alabama's win turns out to be a first-class victory," Wilner explained in a blog post. "Or maybe WVU is exactly what we thought and the Crimson Tide's win wasn't impressive, after all. At this point, we simply don't know.

"I moved both West Virginia and Oklahoma State onto my ballot because both proved they could play with what we think are top-tier teams."

Contact sportswriter Mike Casazza at mikec@dailymailwv.com or 304-319-1142. His blog is at blogs.charlestondailymail.com/wvu. Follow him on Twitter at @mikecasazza.

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MARSHALL FOOTBALL: Freshman Addison called into early OL duty http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140902/DM03/140909831 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140902/DM03/140909831 Tue, 2 Sep 2014 21:43:15 -0400 By Derek Redd HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - A.J. Addison's debut as a Marshall offensive lineman came at an unexpected point.

Starting left tackle Sebastian Johansson rolled his ankle in the second quarter of the Thundering Herd's 42-27 win over Miami (Ohio) and was out for the rest of the game. Then it was true freshman Addison's turn to work with the first team and, if he was nervous, starting right tackle Clint Van Horn didn't see it.

"He had a smile on his face and he was ready," Van Horn said. "He said he was nervous, but he came out there and played a heck of a game."

Addison's 43 snaps in the Herd's first game gave both him and the rest of the team confidence in his abilities if his number is called again this Saturday, when Marshall (1-0) hosts Rhode Island in the Herd's home opener (7 p.m., WCHS or WVAH).

"That's what I've been working all camp for and all of spring ball," Addison said. "Coach always told me, you never know when your number gets called. So that's why I've worked hard every day in practice, so when I do get called, I can step up big."

Though he's in his first season in a Marshall uniform, Addison enrolled in January after a semester at Fork Union Military Academy and had the benefit of a spring season. The spring was important, he said, because he ran a run-heavy Wing-T offense and had to learn pass-blocking principles pretty quickly.

His comfort level grew through the spring and the summer, though his body continued to shrink. He came to Fork Union from Fredricksburg (Va.) Christian High School weighing 335 pounds, slimmed down to 290 by the time he signed with the Herd and entered this season at 282 pounds.

"It's a big transition," Addison said. "It helped me out a lot, just coming through spring. It was hard at first. I wasn't used to it, but now I've started to get under my feet and started to move a little bit better."

Offensive line coach Alex Mirabal said he was a little concerned with how Addison would handle being thrust into the action so soon, but those concerns were quickly laid to rest. After a while, he didn't notice Addison was out there, which he said was a good thing.

"There was no drop-off in terms of the pass game or the run game," Mirabal said. "He's doing what he's supposed to be doing, and he's worked himself into a position where, with the next man up, if something happens at left tackle, he goes in.

Marshall head coach Doc Holliday said that, while Addison might be a freshman, he didn't play like one. Holliday remembers him having just one missed assignment in those 43 snaps.

"I thought he protected well and played extremely physical," he said. "Normally an offensive lineman can't go in and play like he played. But he loves to play and works extremely hard, and that's a tribute not just to him, but to Coach Mirabal, who got him ready to play."

Addison isn't the only youngster among the second-string offensive linemen. Of the five, four of them are either freshmen or redshirts freshmen. Only fifth-year senior Trevor Mendelson isn't a first-year player. Addison's performance served as evidence that Marshall's young linemen can step in when necessary, Van Horn said.

"I believe the young guys behind us can get it done," he said. "I firmly believe that. When they go in, you start to see these guys come into the game more and more. Coach Mirabal wants to see them play. I want to see them play. I'm excited to see them play, so I have faith in these guys, just as they have faith in me."

The consensus is that Addison served himself well as a young player called into duty long before he figured he would. He knows he can't plateau with this performance if he wants continue to see the field, but he's proud that he could help keep the offense going when called upon.

"I came in and had to do what I could do," he said. "I have a lot of stuff to improve on, technique-wise, but that's why I'm working every day and we're working every day to get that down pat."

Contact sportswriter Derek Redd at derek.redd@dailymailwv.com or 304-348-1712. His blog is at blogs.charlestondailymail.com/marshall. Follow him on Twitter @derekredd.

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