WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - Bill Legg, now Marshall's offensive coordinator, spent five seasons at Purdue under coach Joe Tiller. He ran the offensive line from 2003-05 (concentrating on centers and guards 2004-05) and was co-offensive coordinator from 2006-07.As the Thundering Herd gets ready to take on the Boilermakers today at Ross-Ade Stadium, it's time for a little tale of the tape: How did the Boilermakers do under the Poca native from 2003-07?Record-wise, the overall record was 37-26, with one 5-6 season and the rest winners. The Boilermakers went to the Capital One Bowl in Orlando, Fla., the Sun Bowl in Texas, the Champs Sports Bowl in Orlando and the Motor City Bowl in Detroit. The Boilermakers went 1-3 in those, beating Central Michigan 51-48 in Detroit.Perhaps the most interesting record was the 4-8 mark in 2008, the year after Legg departed for Florida International.
The 2006 Boilermakers led the Big Ten in passing and total offense, then led the league in total offense in 2007. His NFL draft picks: center Nick Hardwick (2004, sixth round, Chargers), tackle Kelly Butler (2004, sixth round, Lions), guard Uche Nwaneri (2005, fifth round, Jaguars), tackle Mike Otto (2007, seventh round, Titans) and tight end Dustin Keller (2008, first round, Jets).As with the Thundering Herd's game at West Virginia, Legg said he will spend "about 30 seconds" reminiscing about five productive years at West Lafayette. But for three hours or so, he will be reminded of one of the highest coaches/press/luxury box complexes in college football."It's got a huge press box, I mean huge," he said. "It runs from goal line to goal line and it's about eight stories tall. My last two years, Coach Tiller asked me to go up there, and it's a freakin' blimp view."nn
This will be the first of two games on grass for the Herd, which actually is more than some recent years. Since 2005, the Herd always had a game at East Carolina or Central Florida, the last two holdouts in the era of FieldTurf and competing surfaces. (Interestingly, Marshall played in the last grass game at Birmingham's Legion Field in 2006 - the surface was "turfed" during a weeklong lull at the ancient stadium.)In 1975, near the apex of the AstroTurf craze, two Purdue staffers developed Prescription Athletic Turf, installed at a cost of $125,000. The system featured a network of pipes underneath the surface, designed to properly drain rainwater, even in storms dumping an inch an hour."That grounds crew and all the people involved do a marvelous job," Legg said. "Our kids will enjoy going there and playing. I firmly believe that."nn
Marshall's offense isn't necessarily geared for it, but it wouldn't seem to be a horrible thing for the Herd if today's game came down to a punting duel. But freshman Tyler Williams has a formidable foe in Purdue's Cody Webster.Webster was named second-team All-Big Ten last year, and first-teamer Brett Maher of Nebraska and other top contenders have moved on. So far, he is averaging 45.08 yards per punt and is 18th in the nation, 14 spots behind Williams.Webster went without a touchback the entire season, with 45 punts over 13 games. He had 13 punts over 50 yards, with 11 falling inside the opponents' 20-yard line.
"We did more sky punting, instead of the longer punts," Webster said. "I've been doing sky punts [again] this year, and I still don't have a touchback [in 12 attempts]. It's mainly because we have a lot of speed on our punt team, and they help me [downing the ball]."So what's his advice for Williams, and any other freshmen wading into major-college booting?"My memories were just how much different it was in college than in high school," Webster said. "That's something you can't prepare for, so it took me awhile to just be calm, be relaxed. My advice is just that: Go out there and relax, you know what you need to do. Do what got you there in the first place."nn
Today's Purdue-Marshall games pit two conferences that have taken their shots this season.The Boilermakers will try to restore the honor of the Big Ten, as much as it still has. The league has suffered the following setbacks: Iowa to Central Michigan (32-31) and Iowa State (9-6), Indiana to Ball State (41-39), Penn State to Ohio (24-14), Nebraska to UCLA (36-30), Wisconsin to Oregon State (10-7) and any number of close calls.
The cherry topping came last week, when Illinois was spanked 52-24 by Louisiana Tech.In C-USA the numbers are worse: The league entered the day with a 5-26 record against FBS nonconference opponents, plus two losses to FCS foes (Houston and Memphis were the perps, to Texas State and Tennessee-Martin).Reach Doug Smock at 304-348-5130 or firstname.lastname@example.org.