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Herd coaches trying to get feel for Gardner-Webb

HUNTINGTON -  Having met the challenges of adjusting to an opponent in a season opener, Marshall buckles down to face an opponent, Gardner-Webb, with a little video to study.

In Bill Legg's case, emphasis on "little." MU's offensive coordinator saw a new head coach rising from the Division II ranks leading a defense that played a decidedly 20th-century offense last week.

"I've got one game [to scout]," Legg said. "I've got one game against Furman. Furman plays pro-I, then they change up - they play slot-pro-I, and then they change up and they go tight-pro-I, and then they've got another changeup where they go two tight ends and one back.

"And the only time they get into a real one-back formation was on third-and-long."

Yeah, the Thundering Herd will see lots and lots and lots of that in Conference USA (insert sarcastic coughing here). Legg has to figure out how new G-W coach Carroll McCray - and his defensive coordinator, younger brother Randall - will attack Marshall's blink-and-they'll snap it offense.

And remember, the Runnin' Bulldogs have zip to lose in this game at Edwards Stadium, which kicks off at 6:30 Saturday.

G-W's defense did an excellent job in a 28-21 win, blanking the Purple Paladins in the final 26 minutes, 49 seconds. The Paladins managed just one first down and 42 yards in the second half, allowing the Bulldogs to rally from a 21-7 deficit.

Perhaps Furman could have used a hurry-up attack. Legg would have preferred to see how G-W's defense plays against something approximating the Herd offense, but he thinks he knows what to do.

"I know conceptually what [G-W's defense is] doing," Legg said. "How are they going to take that concept and fit what we do - it could be this way, it could be that way, it could be the other way. There's probably three - there may be more than three - but there's probably three ways, in my mind, that make the most sense, so those are the three ways we're working on right now.

"And then we'll figure out the rest as we go."

On the flip side, Thundering Herd defensive coordinator Chuck Heater had a much better look at a G-W offense that racked up 288 total yards and 15 first downs after halftime.

Juanne Blount ran for 162 yards and two touchdowns, and was named Big South player of the week. Lucas Beatty completed 22 of 31 for 276 yards and the other two Bulldog scores.

"19 [Kenny Cook] and 2 [Richard Jules], the wide receivers, are very good players," Heater said. "22, 23 [J.J. Hubbard, Blount], the two tailbacks are good players. The quarterback I like. The tight end's [Seth Cranfill] a pretty good pass-catcher. They're skill's pretty good.

"There are components of the spread; there's a couple of other things they do."

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  • Carroll McCray was hired late in the coaching-change cycle, Jan. 28. He succeeded Ron Dickerson Jr., who resigned abruptly on Jan. 18.

    McCray played on the offensive line for G-W in the early 1980s, helping the Bulldogs to a 7-3 mark in 1982. His first coaching job came at Appalachian State under Sparky Woods, which brought him to old Fairfield Stadium a few times when the Mountaineers played Marshall.

    He followed Woods to South Carolina, then tutored the O-line at Samford from 1994-2000. He worked under Jackie Sherrill at Mississippi State for two seasons before getting his first head coaching job, a four-year stint at Austin Peay. He brought the Governors from non-scholarship status back to the Ohio Valley Conference.

    He spent 2007-10 at Furman before taking the head coaching job in 2011 at North Greenville (he came a year after Marshall transfer Willy Korn, if you're wondering). He then went to Mercer, helping Bobby Lamb begin an FCS non-scholarship program.

    His team has experience on the FBS stage, playing at Pittsburgh last year (55-10 loss) and at Ohio (30-3) and Wake Forest (48-5) in 2011. He knows he'll be playing before more than the 4,133 last weekend in Boiling Springs, N.C.

    "Each Division I team proves to be different, usually in the fan base," McCray said. "We certainly expect a hostile environment out of the Marshall fans. I know they really love their football up there, I know they come to watch their team regardless of who Marshall is playing.

    "One the video, it looked like it was a very large crowd last week, and they look like they're very excited about their team. So it's going to be a challenge of our surroundings.

    And it will be a challenge on the field. McCray is an old offensive lineman and offensive coach, so guess where his eyes go first when turning on the video?

    "They've got big ol' huge offensive linemen," he said. "And defensively, the thing that stands out at me is it's a team built on speed. They're long and they're lean and when you get a hat on them, they don't stay on their blocks very long."

    A final word on McCray: He is an ordained Baptist minister, though he did not mention asking for divine intervention on Saturday.

    Reach Doug Smock at 304-348-5140, dougsmock@wvgazette.com or follow him at twitter.com/dougsmock.


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