WHO: Western Carolina (1-0, 0-0 SoCon) at Marshall (0-1, 0-0 C-USA)
WHEN: Sept. 8, 2012, 7:00 p.m.
WHERE: Huntington, WVa. Joan C. Edwards Stadium (38,019)
Quick Preview: An old Southern Conference rivalry will be renewed on Saturday evening as Western Carolina and Marshall meet on the gridiron for the first time since the Thundering Herd called the Southern Conference home back in 1996. A No. 1 FCS-ranked Marshall team easily dispatched the Catamounts, 56-21 in Huntington, WVa., and the Thundering Herd has won the last four between the two. Saturday night's meeting will mark the 21st all-time meeting between the two schools, with the series being all tied at 9-9-2.
Western Carolina was impressive in its season opener, posting a 42-14 win over Mars Hill last Thursday night in Cullowhee. Marshall dropped its season opener 69-34 to in-state rival and FBS No.11-ranked West Virginia.
The Catamounts played nine freshmen in Thursday night's opener against Mars Hill under first-year head coach Mark Speir. On offense, most are talking about the fact that it will be an old Marshall player at the controls of the WCU spread offense this evening, as Eddie Sullivan is also set to lead the Catamounts' offense after being suspended for the season opener.
Sullivan might not start, but is expected to see action this evening. True freshman Troy Mitchell was extremely impressive in the season opener against Mars Hill, connecting on 20-of-29 passes for 149 yards, while rushing 13 times for 38 yards and a couple of scores. During Sullivan's time with the Thundering Herd, he logged only limited action, completing 6-of-24 passes for 134 yards and a TD, while rushing for 51 yards on 12 attempts.
The running game has plenty of options, with three players returning with starting experience, and one very impressive freshman in Darius Ramsey, who garnered SoCon Freshman of the Week accolades by finishing the season opener with 120 yards on 20 attempts, while Shaun Warren added 72 yards on 12 carries, and veteran Michael Johnson had 69 yards and two TDs on just six carries.
Jacoby Mitchell and Deja Alexander head up a talented, explosive WR corps for the Purple and Gold. Mitchell led the Catamounts in the season opener, with six catches for 43 yards, while Alexander was held to just one catch for 12 yards.
Defensively, the Catamounts will utilize a 4-2-5 alignment and will be led by linebacker Rock Williams, who posted a team-leading 10 tackles in the season-opener. WCU did yield 333 yards in the season opener to the Lions, including 207 rushing yards.
Marshall's Doc Holliday is in his third season at the helm of the Thundering Herd football program, and he is slowly but surely starting to turn around a program that is coming off a 2011 season which saw the Herd post a 20-10 Beef O'Brady's Bowl win over Florida International and a 7-6 overall record and a 5-3 record in the C-USA East to tie for second in the division last fall.
On offense, the Herd will be led by talented flame-throwing quarterback Rakeem Cato under center. Cato was impressive in the season-opening loss to the Mountaineers, as he connected on 38-of-54 passes for 413 yards, with a couple of scoring tosses and an INT. He was at the helm of a Marshall offense that generated 545 yards in the season opener last Saturday.
Travon Van is the top running back for the Herd, and he is coming off a season-opener which saw him rush for 38 yards and a couple of scores on 16 carries. Among the litany of receiving options for the Herd, the best of the bunch is Aaron Dobson and tight end Eric Fronhapfel. Fronhapfel led the Herd's receiving efforts in the season opener, with six receptions for 60 yards and a score. Dobson showed his big-play ability with four catches for 72 yards.
The Marshall defense surrendered 655 yards of total offense to West Virginia in the season opener and 69 points. The unit is led by strong safety Dominic LeGrande, who posted 13 tackles, a TFL and forced a fumble in the season-opening loss.
Final Prediction: Marshall 48, Western Carolina 28
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