No Moss, no problem
Marshall's offense clicks again without superstar wideout
Posted: Friday December 18, 1998 11:05 PM
HUNTINGTON, West Virginia (AP) -- Doug Chapman and Chad Pennington knew the pressure Marshall's offense faced this season in getting back to the Motor City Bowl without star receiver Randy Moss.
Moss set a Division I-A record with 25 touchdowns for 1,647 yards in leading the Herd to its first bowl in 49 years.
But with Moss gone to the NFL, Marshall spread the ball around more in 1998. The result was no true superstar but many stars as Marshall (11-1) won the Mid-American Conference title for the second straight season.
"You don't replace an individual like Randy Moss," said Chapman, a senior running back. "You have to have young guys step up.
"I took responsibility. Myself and Chad being upperclassmen on offense, we felt we've done a good job this year."
With Chapman rushing for 1,000 yards for the third straight season and Pennington throwing to 17 different receivers, the Herd is returning to the December 23 bowl game to meet Louisville (7-4).
With a Louisville team that has scored at least 50 points four times this season, perhaps the Herd wishes it had Moss back for this game.
"We knew that it would be a different type of season without Randy, but we thought we could achieve the same results," said Pennington, Marshall's career passing leader. "He was a great player [but] he would tell you the same thing, that we have some other great athletes on this team that could make plays."
All Marshall did without Moss was win one more game than in 1997 and still average nearly 30 points per game.
"The people were saying 'you're not going to win without Randy.' That helped us a lot," said Nate Poole, Marshall's leading receiver with 49 catches for 616 yards.
"We talked with the receivers about if we have letdowns game after game, everybody was going to be like, 'Well, Randy's not there.' We took it as a challenge."
But unlike a year ago, when Moss scored quickly, Marshall has been a slow starter and has relied on a little luck and halftime adjustments to catapult past the opposition.
That might not be good enough against Louisville, which is averaging 40 points per game. One comfort Marshall has is knowing that Louisville gives up 35 points per game.
Pennington, a junior who has thrown for 3,419 yards and 24 touchdowns with only seven interceptions, believes Louisville's defense will be looking for the turnover.
"They're an opportunistic defense which tries to make a play to get their offense back on the field," Pennington said. "That's the key to their strategy."
Pennington has exemplified the grit and determination for Marshall, which won two Division I-AA titles during the 1990s along with consecutive MAC titles.
In a 23-17 victory over Toledo in the MAC championship game, Pennington injured his groin in the second quarter.
He stayed in the game but was hit hard on the first series of the second half and left the field dragging his right leg.
Yet he missed only one series and eventually engineered a 61-yard drive in the fourth quarter that put Marshall ahead to stay.
"I expect to come out and play hard for my teammates," Pennington said. "In games like that, no matter what the coaches say or the fans, it boils down to how well your team plays and comes together and sticks with each other.
"I felt I needed to be out there. Our defense was playing so well and our offense just kept playing hard and pressing forward, I wanted to be a part of it."
Last year Pennington had 337 yards passing and three TD tosses in a 34-31 Motor City Bowl loss to Mississippi. He connected with Moss on an 80-yard scoring pass on Marshall's first play.
Things look to be different this year.
"We're going to try to move the ball the best we can," Chapman said. "We'll try to balance it ... If we do that and execute well, we'll win."
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