Dobson emerged vs. WVU in 2010
HUNTINGTON - When FX begins the introduction of the Marshall-West Virginia game Saturday, Thundering Herd and Mountaineer fans know who will be mentioned in the opening minute.
Geno Smith, yep. Tavon Austin, Stedman Bailey, yep.
If Aaron Dobson isn't Marshall's first name mentioned, that will be an upset. Quarterback Rakeem Cato's name could pop up quickly, but the man wearing No. 3 carries the Herd's star power.
And remember, the Dunbar native had his breakout play two years ago in the WVU game.
It was in the second quarter at Joan C. Edwards Stadium, with the Herd up 7-3, when Dobson sneaked past cornerback Keith Tandy, caught a bomb from Brian Anderson and turned it into a 96-yard touchdown.
Keep this in mind: Tandy went on to be named first-team All-Big East twice, and then was selected in the sixth round of this year's NFL draft by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. A Tampa Bay Times article Thursday gives him a good shot at making the 53-man roster.
Also, remember this: Dobson was playing his second game as a true sophomore. He had just 18 career catches to that point, and it was uncertain if he was the Herd's answer at the traditional "X" receiver position.
Dobson said he figured the ball was going to him. Reading the coverage, he knew a safety would help cover Antavious Wilson, leaving him one-on-one against Tandy.
"That was big. That was real early in my sophomore year, after we played Ohio State," Dobson said. "It was a big confidence builder - that was against a great cornerback. He's in 'the league' right now.
"Just playing against him and Brandon Hogan, it was good. I remember me and Antavious Wilson, we were walking in and I remember exactly what I said: 'Man, we've gotta ball, bro. You know what I mean?' He had two touchdowns, I had the 96-yarder, so we came up big in that game.
"We fell short in the game, but that was a big confidence builder for me."
Jeremiah Taylor, a 24-year-old junior defensive end, is a second-year starter and one of the veterans on the Herd defense, but will start against WVU for the first time.
He missed last year's game after being suspended for one game by the NCAA for failing to complete a form certifying his amateur status when he joined the program in 2010.
Hailing from nearby South Point, Ohio, he knows enough about the rivalry and how much a victory would mean for Marshall followers. He also knows what kind of task he faces against the Mountaineers' veteran offensive line.
"Their O-line is big and nasty," he said. "If you just run down the middle on them, they're going to lock you up, sling you all over the place. Their O-line seems fundamentally sound, they've got good running plays, passing plays. Stout all the way around."
You can tell it in their swagger - safeties Dominick LeGrande and Okechukwu Okoroha aren't fazed by the task of facing West Virginia's high-powered offense in front of an equally high-powered crowd.
With wide smiles, you can tell the Boston College transfers relish their return to college football and the chance to take on another big-name QB.
Among those they saw in the Atlantic Coast Conference were Tyrod Taylor at Virginia Tech, Christian Ponder and EJ Manuel at Florida State, Russell Wilson at North Carolina State and T.J. Yates at North Carolina. Wilson, who spent his senior year at Wisconsin, was just named starter for the Seattle Seahawks.
LeGrande compared WVU's Geno Smith to Ponder.
"He can run it if you made him run it, but he doesn't really want to run it; he wants to throw it," he said. "I compare him to Ponder because he doesn't like to run it, like Russell Wilson, Tyrod Taylor and them guys."
On the scale of annoyance, LeGrande didn't care to play Taylor.
"Tyrod Taylor, he always gave us trouble," LeGrande recalled. "Third down, you just knew he was going to scramble, make something happen to get that first down."
Okoroha compared Smith to Manuel, citing their poise in the pocket. But he also wandered off the topic of quarterback and expressed his excitement of playing against Smith's best-known target.
"I've always wanted to play against Tavon; I've wanted to play him since high school," said Okoroha, a Lanham, Md., native. "I always compare him to 'Moo Moo' [5-foot-7 receiver Devon Smith, a Penn State transfer]."
Dave Wilson and David Suntup will join the MU radio crew this season.
Wilson, who covers Marshall for MetroNews and broadcasts Morgantown High games, will produce and host the Tailgate Show, which begins two hours before kickoff. Suntup, a recent Syracuse graduate, will serve as studio host.
Steve Cotton returns for his 20th season as MU's play-by-play announcer, with WCHS/WVAH-TV's Mark Martin beginning his second season as analyst.
Reach Doug Smock at 304-348-5130 or firstname.lastname@example.org.