Western Carolina (1-0) at Marshall (0-1)7 p.m. todayJoan C. Edwards Stadium (38,019, FieldTurf), HuntingtonTV: Fox College Sports Atlantic (Suddenlink digital cable 509)
Crew: Mike Gleason play-by-play, Ben Leber analyst, Lesley McCaslin sidelinesLine: noneSeries: Tied 9-9-2Last game: Marshall 56, Western Carolina 21, Oct. 19, 1996 at HuntingtonTickets: Plenty available, $25-35.Weather: Partly cloudy, 66 at kickoff.
On the spotMarshall defense: You can't single out anybody on this unit, from coordinator Chris Rippon on to the scout-teamers. They were rendered helpless by WVU. The issues include: (a) will the front seven be stronger filling gaps, (b) will the cornerbacks play more than 12 yards off receivers, (c) is it the week to actually blitz or the week to go vanilla. Just remember, the degree of difficulty takes a steep dive. Jacoby Mitchell, you are no Tavon Austin.Eddie Sullivan, Western Carolina quarterback: MU players are mostly diplomatic about it, but let's face it, they want to clobber the Herd transfer. After last week, defenders should want to clobber anybody, but they really, really want their former teammate. (He wears No. 9 instead of his No. 8, by the way.)
Stats 'n' suchIn the stat rankings: Herd fans, this will not be pretty. Your team is 96th nationally in pass defense yardage (324), 105th in pass efficiency defense (194.16), 106th in rushing defense (331), 107th in scoring defense (69) and 107th in total defense (655). Worse news: Only 107 FBS teams played last week. ... Much better news: Tyler Williams is 3rd in punting (51.25) and Rakeem Cato is 4th in total yardage (432). Team-wise, the Herd is 3rd in passing yardage (413) and 4th in net punting (46.5).
Over-unders629 Marshall total yards. That is the number the Herd rolled up on the Catamounts in their last meeting of 1996, when Eric Kresser went 17-of-23 for 300 yards and four touchdowns in 11/2 quarters. Jason Balwanz scored three touchdowns as the subs received quality time.41/2 Number of Marshall backs topping the 50-yard mark.25,000 Attendance. Only four home openers have fallen short of this mark, but two have come in the last three years.Completely useless triviaWest Virginia State owns an unfortunate place in Western's record book. On Sept. 2, 2004, the Catamounts pounded the Yellow Jackets 77-7, setting enduring records for points and win margin. Western beat State by a more palatable 24-19 in 1971, and topped WVU Tech 47-3 in 2002.
NextMarshall stays home for its most pivotal nonconference game against nearby rival Ohio. Kickoff is at 6:30 p.m. next Saturday, with no television scheduled yet. Western dives into Southern Conference play next Saturday with a 7 p.m. game at Wofford.