Anyone who witnessed the events of the Milan Puskar Stadium Saturday might be battling the same question: how might the Herd react coming off such a big loss? For those who missed the boat last weekend, allow me to recap as painlessly as possible.
No. 11 West Virginia seems to have settled right in to its place in the Big 12, showing off their high-powered offense in its season opener Saturday and shutting the Herd out in a 69-34 game. Rakeem Cato threw for 413 yards, but defensive issues plagued Marshall in the final Friends of Coal Bowl for the foreseeable future. I don't mean to rehash bad memories, but it needed to be said and thrown out of the way. Time to move on to what's important; the road that lies ahead.
Returning to Huntington with only one man down, which was senior offensive tackle Garrett Scott who suffered a high ankle sprain in the first quarter, we can anticipate that the same Herd who left the Coal Bowl will show up at the Joan Saturday with some fire in their belly. Not only because the 35-point ego-blow is enough to make any competitive man blood thirsty, but also because fans and players alike await the return of their former quarterback, Eddie Sullivan.
Sullivan transferred to Western Carolina after ending up third on the depth chart behind Rakeem Cato and A.J. Graham, who has also left the team. The Sullivan situation took a twist when Sullivan was suspended from Western Carolina's opener, and his freshman replacement earned the Southern Conference Freshman of the Week. It would be disappointing to see Sullivan in a familiar place, riding the pine.
Last year the Herd went 5-1 in home games, losing only to Virginia Tech (which I'm still pretty bitter about, considering we were tied at halftime). Against a minor opponent like the Catamounts, the Herd should be able to start the season off 1-0 before welcoming an impressive looking Ohio. Ohio defeated Penn State, which was still a good team despite NCAA sanctions.
It is evident that Marshall's defensive line needs to step up against the Catamounts. Getting penetration and putting pressure on whichever Western Carolina quarterback plays will be key in the outcome of this upcoming game. Perhaps most important of all, Marshall needs to defend home turf and get the first game in the win column. West Virginia has to be in the rearview with the lessons learned in the trunk.