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Marshall Excited About Opportunity to Play Hokies

In the weeks leading up to Virginia Tech’s game against Alabama last Saturday, there was a buzz about the Hokies' opportunity to knock off a ranked opponent and make a statement about the program. Now it's Marshall’s turn.

The Thundering Herd (1-0) takes on No. 14 Virginia Tech (0-1) at Lane Stadium on Saturday.

Marshall Coach Mark Snyder said playing the Hokies was a “monumental task. They’re a good football team. Very fast, very physical. We’re going to have to play a perfect game.”

While Virginia Tech Coach Frank Beamer has said his team needed to be "right in all areas," he said the Thundering Herd will not go lightly. "I think they're pretty capable," Beamer said Tuesday at his weekly news conference.

Marshall won two division I-AA national titles, in 1992 and 1996, and five Mid-American Conference titles after joining division I-A in 1997. But the Thundering Herd, now a member of Conference USA, has not had a winning season since 2003. Its most recent win over a ranked team came during that season, when it defeated No. 6 Kansas State, 27-20, in Huntington, W.Va.

Last Saturday, Marshall scraped out a 31-28 win over Southern Illinois, a nationally ranked division I-AA team. But Virginia Tech represents the biggest opportunity – and challenge – on the Thundering Herd’s schedule. A win would add a shot of vitality to the program and perhaps help it start to pull itself up.

“We’re very excited,” strong safety Ashton Hall said. “It’s a real big game for us. It’s always a big game when you’re playing a bigger school with a bigger prestige.”

As the game has approached, it has become a bigger topic of discussion. At the coach’s quarterback club meeting – $12 for lunch and an opportunity to ask him a question – fans wanted to know about the Hokies, their speed and their impact players. At practice on Thursday, speakers will be turned on to simulate the crowd noise sure to greet the team in Blacksburg.

Downtown at the Marshall Hall of Fame Cafe, servers said they were expecting a packed crowd to watch the game on television. In front of the student center, members of the Marshall Maniacs fan group were selling green T-shirts and asking if students were heading to Blacksburg.

“I think those of us excited about athletics are pumped about this game,” said Samantha Turley, 18, a junior from Jacksonville, Fla., and the co-vice president and communications coordinator of the Marshall Maniacs. “I’m excited to see a lot of Marshall fans there – at least I’m hoping to.”

As of Wednesday, the Marshall Maniacs had sold 49 student tickets for the away game. Although some students said they heard talk about the Virginia Tech game, others said they were not too excited for a match up against a ranked opponent.

“I think we’re going to get stomped, honestly,” said Trenton Davis, 21, a junior from Huntington, W.Va. “We looked pretty sad last weekend.”

By Mark Viera  |  September 10, 2009; 12:08 PM ET
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