Defense dominant in White's 31-8 win over Green
HUNTINGTON – Saturday’s Green-White Game largely played out as predicted.
Blending ideal weather and the reunion of Marshall University’s 1999 undefeated team, a sizeable crowd attended the Thundering Herd football’s spring practice finale. Continuing a month-long theme, defense dictated action throughout Marshall’s third spring scrimmage.
Cornerbacks DeQuan Bembry and D.J. Wingate each intercepted first half passes, leading to a 10-0 White halftime lead.
Defensive coordinator Rick Minter’s group didn’t relent, leading to a modest 31-8 White victory before 8,436 fans. Marshall’s sun-splashed scrimmage coincided with a celebrated reunion of the Thundering Herd’s 1999 unbeaten team.
Current players soaked in the rare opportunity, sponging information and perspective from the ’99 team members. Chris Crocker, now with the Cincinnati Bengals, tutored senior safety Ashton Hall. Rogers Beckett, who spent several seasons with the Bengals, likewise offered insight to sophomore safety Ahmed Shakoor.
“You can’t put a price tag on it, what those guys did for our football team,” Thundering Herd head coach Mark Snyder said. “When you look at that team and as I look at our team, I can just about mirror up about every guy with one of our guys, and it’s about belief and coming together and putting it all together.”
Miami Dolphins quarterback Chad Pennington, who helped lead the ’99 squad to a 13-0 record, Mid-American Conference championship and Motor City Bowl win over BYU, soaked in practices Friday and Saturday. Marshall’s all-time leading passer hardly was shocked by spring practice’s tone. Stacked with depth and speed, defensive coordinator Rick Minter’s group progressed this spring, while the offense, under coordinator John Shannon, gradually has developed an identity under new No. 1 quarterback Brian Anderson and an unproven group of wide receivers.
“Obviously in the spring and even in the fall the defense is going to be ahead of the offense because of the timing issue and communication,” Pennington said. “That’s always going to happen.
“I don’t worry about that. The biggest thing for these guys to understand is is that it’s not just about the offense against the ‘D’ between the white lines, but once you get outside the white lines and in the locker room it’s about Marshall football.
“It’s not Rick Minter’s defense or John Shannon’s offense. It’s about being together as a team.”
Offensive highlights included quarterback Press Taylor essentially jump-shooting a 16-yard pass to tight end Cody Slate, facing a heated blitz. That completion led to Martin Ward’s 2-yard touchdown run, providing a 7-0 White lead.
A 29-yard Tyler Warner field extended the advantage to 10-0, and Anderson connected with Antavious Wilson in the end zone’s corner for a 17-0 lead. Spring practice somewhat is about fun, evidenced by the scrimmage’s fourth score. Safety Ashton Hall, lining up at wideout, looked the part, hauling in a 17-yard touchdown from Taylor.
Redshirt freshman tailback Jordan Taylor produced the Green’s lone score, rumbling in from two yards. Albert McClellan, Conference USA’s 2007 Defensive Player of the Year, flipped from defensive end to tailback, converting the two-point attempt on a handoff and providing the final margin.
Cementing spring-long dominance, Anderson was stuffed on a fourth-and-1 sneak attempt from the 1-yard line, denying a final offensive score. Two plays later, defensive tackle James Burkes stripped quarterback Jake Laudenslayer and fellow lineman Johnny Jones recovered in the end zone, locking down the 31-8 White victory.
“Obviously we need to make more plays out wide,” Snyder said, peering ahead to August preseason camp. “We’re going to have to have some guys step up and be pertinent out wide for us.”
Still, the fifth-year coach essentially declared spring practice a success.
“Our corners played extremely well this spring,” Snyder said. “They showed some development, some maturity. I saw the same at the safety position.
“Our middle linebacker position was a concern. I feel pretty comfortable there now (with Kellen Harris as starter). We already knew we were deep along the defensive line. That’s didn’t disappoint.
“I thought Brian had a good spring. Press Taylor came on in the last week. He’s a different kind of guy who does some different things for us.”