This isn’t their first confrontation.
Marshall’s Micah Abraham and Georgia Southern’s Kyle Vantrease actually squared off during the 2020 postseason. The difference is Vantrease was playing for Buffalo in those days.
Ah, there’s the catch.
When Marshall played Buffalo in the 2020 Camellia Bowl in Montgomery, Alabama, Vantrease led the Bulls to a 17-10 win over Abraham’s Thundering Herd.
Now, fast-forward to Nov. 19, 2022. Coincidentally, Abraham and Vantrease will go head-to-head again, except Vantrease will be quarterbacking Georgia Southern’s pass-happy “Air Raid” of an offense.
Aren’t coincidences fun?
The Eagles, 5-5, will host Marshall, 6-4, at 6 p.m. Saturday at Allen E. Paulson Stadium in Statesboro, Georgia.
What makes it even more interesting is the individual seasons Abraham and Vantrease have enjoyed in 2020. For example, the 6-foot-2, 179-pound Abraham is ranked No. 3 in the nation in pass interceptions with five. And Vantrease? He has completed 286 of 468 passes (61.1%) for 3,370 yards with 21 touchdowns and 13 interceptions.
What’s even more compelling, however, was Vantrease’s performance during a 45-38 win over James Madison. The 6-foot-2, 225-pound Vantrease lit up the Dukes to the tune of 38 of 64 passing for 578 yards with four touchdowns, one interception and zero sacks.
That is what awaits the Herd.
“I remember they liked to pass, but they were kind of a balanced offense,” said Abraham. “They liked to mix it up a little bit. But, now, with this team — Georgia Southern — they are completely ‘Air Raid’ and really love to throw the ball.”
By comparison, in the Camellia Bowl, Vantrease turned in a rather pedestrian performance, completing 16 of 27 passes for 140 yards with no touchdowns and one interception.
“New team,” said Abraham. “A few years have gone by and it’s a whole different style now. All I can say is, for him it’s a better system.”
The surprising part is after five years of average passing statistics at Buffalo, Vantrease transferred to Georgia Southern for his final season and his passing statistics simply exploded.
“Sometimes things like that just happen,” said Abraham. “We definitely know they are an ‘Air Raid’ offense and that should be a challenge for the back end of our defense.”
Since MU is a 3.5-point favorite, let’s call this a 31-24 win for the Herd.
Now, for West Virginia University.
This should have been a celebratory week after defeating Oklahoma 23-20 on a walk-off field goal. That’s particularly the case considering it was WVU’s last chance to defeat the Sooners as members of the Big 12 Conference.
But, instead, WVU fired director of athletics Shane Lyons and it has been a week pockmarked with turmoil. Beleaguered head coach Neal Brown addressed that issue this week.
“Shane Lyons is family,” said Brown. “Shane is a strong administrator, but he’s even a better guy. He’s a good man. That’s very important to note.
“I think people forget that behind titles and decisions are real people with real families. He and his wife, Emily, and their two kids ... they served this university and they served it well.
“I just wanted everyone to know we’re thinking about him. I am very appreciative. I’m appreciate of the opportunity that he gave me to come here. And we’re going to continue to fight and get better and win as many games as possible. And do it the right way. Like he would want.
“But my focus is we’re just trying to get better today. And try to go win a game on Saturday vs. Kansas State.”
Although a win would bring WVU one step closer to bowl eligibility, it doesn’t appear likely. The Mountaineers will lose 34-20.