There are a couple of reasons why Alex Mollette could overlook Marshall University’s opening football game.
No. 1, Mollette and his Thundering Herd teammates are facing a woebegone Football Championship Subdivision program in Virginia Military Institute, which has compiled an underwhelming record of 1-21 during the Keydets’ last two seasons.
No. 2, the homestanding Herd is such a heavy favorite to defeat VMI at 6:30 p.m. Saturday in Joan C. Edwards Stadium, ESPN has Marshall favored by 41 points.
Yes, 41 points.
Be that as it may, there are still two better reasons why Mollette won’t overlook VMI.
No. 1, the 6-foot-3, 290-pound redshirt junior left guard never, ever takes any opponent for granted.
“Personally, I’ve never looked at any team differently,” said the native of Suwanee, Georgia. “I think every team has the same potential to go out and beat any team. I just think you go in 50-50.
“Like [Marshall head coach Doc Holliday] says, I pickup the newspaper every week and read about some team getting beat that shouldn’t have. I prepare and I know as a team we do, too. We prepare the same way every single week.”
No. 2, this is Mollette’s “Comeback Game.”
After starting nine consecutive games as a redshirt freshman and sophomore, Mollette tore the ACL in his right knee during Marshall’s fourth game of the 2018 season — a 20-17 win over Western Kentucky in Bowling Green, Kentucky. It wasn’t Mollette’s first major injury, but it was season-ending.
“I don’t know what people consider major injuries,” he said, “but last summer I had hernia surgery and in high school I had labrum [shoulder] surgery, too. So, I’ve had some surgeries.
“I’m used to it, but this one was obviously the worst and the longest of the ones I’ve had. But the doctor that did my surgery did a very, very good job and kept checking up on me and making sure my knee was solid. So, I feel better than ever.”
Yet, it still had to be difficult to miss the last eight regular-season contests and the bowl game.
“Yeah, but I think what helped me a lot was knowing that Cain Madden was going in there,” said Mollette of his replacement. “Cain obviously is a phenomenal football player. It was exciting to know that after I got hurt we were in good hands still and we weren’t going to lose a beat.”
Now Mollette and Madden are both in the starting lineup, with Mollette switching to left guard and Madden staying on the right side.
That’s why no one is more excited and revved up for the Marshall-VMI game than Mollette.
Again, it’s his “Comeback Game.”
“Yeah, I’m just ready to play again,” said Mollette. “I missed spring ball, but I think our whole team is ready to play again because it’s a whole season and a new reason for us.”
New season, new reason.
But otherwise, everything is the same old, same old for Mollette. His weight, his attitude, his quickness and his demeanor are still the same.
“I feel good,” he said. “I really do. I haven’t lost anything. I feel really good out there playing. It’s nice to be back. Yes sir, it is. It’s a good feeling.
“It’s just really amazing.”
And it really doesn’t matter who the opponent is.