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Herrion's hectic week, coaches behaving badly and Johnny Football

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- AFTER HIS Marshall team held off two excellent Nevada guards for an 89-82 victory, coach Tom Herrion uttered a strange phrase: "I'm tired."

I'm not sure I've ever heard that line from the third-year coach, the man who ditches his jacket before the first radio/TV timeout. Just watching the guy conduct practice will wear you out - you want to yell, "Tom! Dude! Come up for air!"

But Herrion had a long, long Thanksgiving week. It all started a weekend ago, when the Herd lost to South Dakota State on a last-second shot and fell to Hofstra in double overtime.

With Marshall students on holiday break, Herrion welcomed the chance to work with his team without the usual school-week constraints on practice. His staff needed to teach, and he needed to re-instill his team's toughness on the boards.

But a violent collision between big men Robert Goff and Yous Mbao made the week a lot tougher for everyone in the MU program.

That started with the 6-foot-9, 240-pound Goff and the 7-2, 249-pound Mbao being taken out of Cam Henderson Center on flat boards, immobilized and everything. Herrion tried to keep players focused on the practice, but he eventually had to go to the hospital.

That became a second home of sorts, as Mbao remained hospitalized until Saturday afternoon. Herrion fondly recalled his visit Friday night, opening the door and seeing seven or eight of Mbao's teammates there. Mbao was released Saturday afternoon, and met the team in a wheelchair and a neck brace.

Herrion didn't disclose all the gritty details of the injuries, but did say major concussion issues are involved. Mbao got the worse end.

That left Herrion with one of the toughest things a head coach has to face - telling the players' parents. And remember, Mbao's home is thousands of miles and one language barrier away in Africa.

"I know I'm supposed to win games," Herrion said. "You know what the pressure was? Trying to make sure I talk slow enough that Yous Mbao's father in Senegal could have any capacity to understand what I was telling him about his son's condition. That's pressure.

"Cutting a lead to six, five, four, that's not pressure."

 

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    On a less emotional note, the absence of Goff and Mbao poses a few rotation dilemmas. And a lot more minutes for everyone on the front line.

    Against Nevada, JP Kambola played eight minutes, not far below the 13 he logged the entire 2011-12 season. Nigel Spikes played 28 minutes and he'll play more in upcoming games - if he stays out of foul trouble. Jamir Hanner played 14 minutes, scoring 10 points with six rebounds.

    Tinnon will see more shifts in the post, I figure. He played 34 minutes and Elijah Pittman 35, and expect that to be a constant.

     

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    Marshall plays eight of its next 10 games in either Huntington or Charleston, with short road trips to Kentucky and Ohio. Next up is Morehead State, 7 p.m. Wednesday at Cam Henderson Center.

    Morehead will welcome first-year coach Sean Woods back to the bench, the same Woods who went ballistic on point guard Devon Atkinson for fouling out during the Eagles' near-upset of Kentucky. Reviewing the video, I would say Woods delivered something between a slap and a shove to Atkinson's back.

    I found the tirade unacceptable, even without the contact. Woods deserves his one-game suspension, which he will serve tonight against Norfolk State.

     

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    So the question lingers: Does Johnny Manziel win the Heisman Trophy before giving his first interview? Maybe not - according to a CBS Sports blog, Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin says, "We'll have a plan for him to be available next week."

    Well, isn't that just benevolent of ol' Kev? Good to see him in the holiday spirit.

    Sumlin, whom I wasn't terribly fond of in the first place, has a blanket policy of not allowing freshmen to speak to the media all season. That's bush-league in itself, but much more so after the school launches a Heisman Trophy website in a freshman's honor (johnnyfootball.aggieathletics.com).

    What a marriage of modern-day college coaching paranoia and hypocrisy. I am not impressed.

    My view on that subject is very straightforward: If you can't handle a few cameras and recorders, don't play big-boy college football. Go play in Division II, where the toughest question you'll hear is "what's up, man?"

    If you're a major-college quarterback, you need to face the public on a constant basis. You're an aspiring leader, on and off the field, and you need to learn how to carry yourself. At Marshall, Rakeem Cato has benefited from being exposed to the limelight from his first game, his first preseason camp.

    Personally, it has been gratifying to watch him grow.

    So what to do with Manziel and my Heisman ballot?

    Voters must name three players in order, and there is no way I am leaving Johnny Football off my ballot. I may be forgetful here, but I don't think I've seen a freshman make that much of an impact on the sport since Herschel Walker.

    But gosh, I hate to encourage Sumlin here. In the last decade, I've seen college coaches become more and more paranoid, more inclined to ban fans from practice, to be vague or lie about injuries, to push for lighter schedules that rob their fans of quality football. I guess it's a product of those exorbitant salaries that university presidents refuse to rein in.

    I've got a week to get over all that and give Manziel his due. It's the right thing to do.

    Reach Doug Smock at 304-348-5130, dougsmock@wvgazette.com or follow him at twitter.com/dougsmock.


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