Marshall football notebook: Herd's Bazzie recalls FIU bowl scuffle he missed
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. -- There was a nasty little scuffle the last time Marshall and Florida International crossed paths, back in the 2011 Beef 'O' Brady's Bowl St. Petersburg.
A player or two from each team traded words, which led to several players from each team trying to trade shoves and punches.
That scuffle, which coaches from both teams broke up, was brought into living rooms and sports bars via ESPN, but not everybody saw it. Those who missed the fracas include media members descending from the Tropicana Field press box to the field, and even some players.
Marshall defensive end Alex Bazzie was one.
"Oh my goodness, that one was crazy," Bazzie said this week. "I'm in the celebration [and] to tell you the truth I didn't even know there was something going on until the highlights on ESPN, as we were on the bus. I was so caught up in the celebration, I'm around somewhere dancing and throwing up fist-pumps and I get on the bus and I'm like, 'I missed a fight?'
"I was right on the field [but] I didn't really know what happened."
Well before the fight, the Silver Springs, Md., native learned very quickly what happens when a bunch of Miami men line up on opposite sides. He felt a different tension, and knew he had better raise his intensity to meet it.
"Miami guys get you fired up right quick, because of the fact that they love football," Bazzie said. "They're willing to take it to the grave. They get to conversations about a team or what they did in high school, and that slightest disagreement or slight, it's 'Oh, no, that didn't happen.' It's over.
"Those Miami boys take it so seriously when it comes to football, but it's good to have kids on your team, people so passionate about their sport."
Whether FIU can stay in the same area code with Marshall is uncertain, but you can bank on a spirited game nonetheless. Kickoff time is 6 p.m. at FIU Stadium in Miami.
Bazzie is well remembered from the bowl game for his hit on FIU's T.Y. Hilton during a first-quarter kickoff return. Hilton was the Panthers' MVP, rushing for a touchdown and catching eight passes for 88 yards, but he returned only one more kickoff for 19 yards and shared the fair-catching duties.
(With Herd punter Kase Whitehead belting catwalk shots at Tropicana Field, there were no returns.)
Hilton, now playing for the Indianapolis Colts, admitted that he had lost some of his explosiveness, courtesy of Bazzie's hit.
"We had been hearing all week about how explosive a guy he was, how much he makes that team go," Bazzie said. "It had us so mad. Everbody on our kickoff unit, on our punt unit, we were just so mad to hear about this guy - how good of a player he was, and he was going to be the reason if FIU wins.
"So we wanted to go out there and prove a point that our kickoff unit and our punt unit were a bunch of nasty dudes who wanted to go down there and hit something. And it just so happened I had the first, best shot at him, and I wasn't going to pass that opportunity up. That was something that kind of set the tone for the game."
With the Panthers sputtering into the fourth quarter of that game but still tied 10-10, they inserted Jake Medlock at quarterback. He lasted for one series, throwing a 13-yard pass to Hilton, getting sacked and throwing incomplete on third down. He did not play again.
Now a junior, he'll play again, maybe starting and/or splitting time with sophomore E.J. Hilliard. Medlock didn't tear it up last week at Texas-El Paso, completing 3 of 7 for 80 yards. Hilliard was 5 of 14 for 53 yards.
But Medlock is excelling on fourth down as the punter. He averaged 46.7 yards on seven punts, including a long of 70 yards. For the season he averages 43.2 yards on 20 punts.
The Panthers have punted more than 20 times, though. With a sputtering offense (with Medlock a contributor, of course), the Panthers have punted a league-high 71 times, with Chris Ayers doing most of it. FIU opponents have 39 punts.
From the "Please Show Up and Get on TV" Dept.: Students are being lured with a number of goodies if they attend - not just tailgate, but actually enter the stadium and stick around for four quarters.
Prizes given out during fourth-quarter media timeouts include four scholarships, vouchers for textbooks, an IPad, an IPod shuffle, an ITunes gift card and the biggie, a 50-inch flat-screen TV.
The ones who don't win can turn in their raffle tickets for McDonald's coupons and FIU gift cards - after the game. That includes their guests, two of whom they can bring along for free.
For many of the Miami contingent, playing at FIU Stadium, aka "The Cage," won't be a new experience.
The stadium, which seats 20,000 with plans for expansion, is an ideal venue for some of the largest games in Miami-Dade County, including the Central-Northwestern rivalry. Marshall's Rakeem Cato and Tommy Shuler are notable Central alums; at least four played at Northwestern.
Will that be an advantage for Cato, Shuler, A.J. Leggett, etc.?
"Sometimes, they're like, 'Where's my locker room going to be? What's the stadium look like?' " offensive coordinator Bill Legg. "Kids go to a lot of places, and the first time they've been there they go in and look around and they become a sightseer for five, 10, 15 minutes before they move forward.
"A lot of our kids won't go through that, because they know the sights. That will allow them to move into preparation for the game a little quicker."
And finally, what is up with the game airing on Fox College Sports Central? The two teams are in the Eastern Time Zone, and the host team is 10-12 miles from the Atlantic Ocean.
The Fox College channels can be found in the Kanawha Valley on Suddenlink digital channels 509-511, and geography doesn't always correlate. For instance, FCS Pacific aired the Maine-Rhode Island game.
If you're really curious, FCS Atlantic is airing Gardner-Webb/Missouri at the 6 p.m. hour Saturday, with FCS Pacific airing South Dakota at North Dakota State.
Doug Smock at 304-348-5130, firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him at twitter.com/dougsmock.