Louisville not taking Herd lightly
Football coaches like to accentuate the positives of their opponents, lest their comments get taped all over their locker rooms.
But Louisville coach Charlie Strong cites hard evidence for his praise of Marshall: Thundering Herd 26, Southern Mississippi 20.
Strong knows the Thundering Herd hasn't distinguished itself since that Sept. 10 victory, but he knows what a handful the Golden Eagles can be. Strong's Cardinals outlasted Southern Miss 31-28 at the Beef O'Brady's Bowl last December in St. Petersburg, Fla.
The victory capped a 7-6 first season for Strong, but it wasn't easy. Chris Philpott booted a 36-yard field goal with 6:18 left to cap a rally from a 21-7 deficit. The Cardinals were outgained 396-287.
Philpott is back this year, but the Cardinals bade farewell to their quarterback, leading rusher (Bilal Powell) and top two receivers from that game, plus their top tackler.
Some stars of the bowl are back, though. Tight end Josh Chichester caught a touchdown pass and Jeremy Wright returned a kickoff 95 yards to answer Southern Miss' go-ahead touchdown in the fourth quarter.
One player who was not there was Victor Anderson, the 2008 Big East rookie of the year who averaged more than 30 yards a kickoff return last year.
Marshall will have to contend with a 6-foot-8, 240-pound force at tight end in Chichester. The senior has 78 career catches for 1,015 yards and nine touchdowns, and had 111 yards receiving Sept. 10 against Florida International.
The Herd will face two potential NFL prospects at the position in two weeks. Chichester is 24th at the position in the early ESPN rankings; Central Florida's Adam Nissley is three spots ahead.
"He's athletic," Herd coach Doc Holliday said of Chichester. "Not only do they use him as an attached tight end, they flex him out. At times you think they'll be '11' personnel [one back, one tight end], but they'll be '10' personnel because at the line they go four wides. They flex him into space.
"He can run; he's a big target."
Perhaps it's because Tim Tebow and Darren McFadden have taken their "wildcat" skills to the NFL. Or maybe it's because the gadget offense didn't work well everywhere (Marshall was a notorious example).
In any event, Louisville is a dying breed. The Cardinals have utilized a "Wild Card" formation, with some success. The "quarterback" is Dominique Brown, a 6-foot-2, 221-pound sophomore.
In the Cardinals' 24-17 win over Kentucky two weekends ago, Brown was the leading rusher with 91 yards on 14 carries. His long was 23 yards, after which he gave way to Will Stein. Stein then threw 38 yards to Andrell Smith to give Louisville a 7-3 lead.
The U of L announced Thursday that the game was sold out. That would mean the third crowd of 55,000-plus in school history.
Papa John's Cardinal Stadium was built in 1998, replacing the ancient Cardinal Stadium on the Kentucky Fairgrounds. In 2010, capacity was increased from 42,000 to 55,000.
Twice last year, Louisville reached that larger figure - 55,327 against Kentucky and 55,106 against Cincinnati. A crowd of 43,217 in the 2006 West Virginia game remains ninth on the all-time list.
The gate for the Cardinals' two home games have been respectable, with room for more - 46,157 for Murray State and 47,228 for FIU.
For those Herd players who have traveled to road games for four years, this will be the 16th different stadium they have visited, with Houston's Robertson Stadium and Tulsa's H.A. Chapman Stadium later in the 2011 slate.
Marshall kicker Tyler Warner, having recently visited Louisville's new KFC Yum! Center downtown, is a bit excited.
"If the football stadium is anything like the basketball arena, I'm sure it will be an awesome place to play," he said.
Holliday and Strong coached together at Florida from 2005-07, on a coaching staff that seems to become more impressive by the week.
"Dan Mullen at Mississippi State did well a year ago," Holliday said. "[Steve] Addazio at Temple's done a nice job and Charlie at Louisville. Greg Mattison is now the D-coordinator at Michigan. It was a good defensive staff we had.
"Chuck Heater is a D-coordinator at Temple right now, who's leading the nation in total defense. That was an excellent staff and I was happy to be part of it."
Addazio is continuing Temple's resurgence from previous coach Al Golden, as the Owls are 3-1 and coming off a 38-7 pasting of Maryland. He lured former MU defensive line coach Sean Cronin and strength coach Frank Piraino to Philadelphia.
Mullen is 2-2 in his second year at Mississippi State, after going 9-4 and pounding Michigan in the Gator Bowl. Mattison has started his second stint at Michigan after three seasons with the Baltimore Ravens.
Reach Doug Smock at 304-348-5130 or firstname.lastname@example.org.