Sholten Singer/The Herald-Dispatch Marshall wide receiver coach Dallas Baker talks with players as Herd football continues spring practice on Tuesday, April 9, 2019, at Joan C. Edwards Stadium in Huntington.

HUNTINGTON — Over the last two days, Marshall's football players have been loud and boisterous as practice ended.

Perhaps it was because camp was finally coming to an end and game week was in sight — a picture that became much clearer after Saturday's final preseason camp session.

Upon further review, though, it only took one motion from wide receivers coach Dallas Baker following Friday's practice to find a deeper insight into the enthusiasm.

In addition to being excited for their own season opener, now less than a week away, members of Marshall's team were excited to watch the first game of the major college football season - a game pitting Baker's Florida Gators against the Miami Hurricanes.

Baker made the Florida "chomp" motion with his hands to instigate the heavy contingent of Miami players on Marshall's roster, which got everyone fired up and talking as practice ended.

One might never think that a game involving two different teams in FBS would ignite such emotion, but Baker said it's an emotion built from childhood in young football players.

Considering that Marshall has 32 Florida-born players on its 2019 roster, the feel was that the entire team had an interest in the matchup.

"It's bragging rights," Baker said. "It's hard to explain unless you experienced it and grew up a part of it and you lived it. For the guys who have been a part of it growing up, this is something special."

Baker, who starred at Florida as a wide receiver from 2003-06, enjoys the juice that the rivalry brings with it and, on Saturday, he used that to help bond the team as it gets set for game week.

"We've got so many Florida guys here that we can't let the opportunity slip by to become closer as a family," Baker said. "It'll probably be something where we all get together and watch the game and laugh."

Marshall practiced at 3:30 p.m. on Saturday, allowing the Thundering Herd to finish up in time to get some food and for everyone to settle in to watch the battle between the Gators and Hurricanes.

Baker is one of few from Marshall's Sunshine State contingent openly rooting for the Gators. Others included long snapper Matthew Beardall and backup quarterback Jackson White, originally from Gainesville, where UF is located.

However, most of Marshall's Florida contingent is Miami-centric, which means there were plenty of players who would be rooting for "The U" on Saturday night.

One of those players was Marshall senior defensive end Marquis Couch, who played high school football at Miami Central.

Despite rooting for opposite sides in the rivalry matchup, Couch and Baker did agree on one aspect - sharing in the 2019 college football kickoff game with each other added a unique element to the start of game week.

"You know, it's all good vibes," Couch said. "Everybody is excited for college football to start back again, but you know there's going to be some trash-talking going around with it."

Almost on cue, Baker again started waving his arms in the chomp motion, as if to reignite the flame between both allegiances.

Then the Herd's fiery wide receivers coach gave one last statement before smiling and heading into the Shewey Building.

"I doubt I'll be the one crying at the game, but it's a great opportunity for us to bond," Baker said.

With the rivalry matchup now done, Marshall sets its sights on its own opponent. The season opener against VMI is at 6:30 p.m. on Saturday at Joan C. Edwards Stadium.


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