Chuck and duck?
Louisville, Marshall expect air war in Motor City Bowl
Posted: Wednesday December 23, 1998 05:32 PM
PONTIAC, Michigan (AP) -- A year ago, Chad Pennington got into a shootout in the Pontiac Silverdome and lost. This time, he hopes things work out better.
Pennington threw three touchdown passes in the inaugural Motor City Bowl, but Marshall still lost when Mississippi scored with 31 seconds remaining to pull out a 34-31 victory.
"That was disappointing," Pennington said.
This year the Thundering Herd (11-1) is back. But the opposition will be just as explosive Wednesday night. Newly revived Louisville (7-4) is a team whose offense might be even more high-powered than Marshall's.
The Cardinals, led by quarterback Chris Redman, averaged 40.4 points per game. Playing in the highly competitive Conference USA, Louisville scored 63 points twice this season, scored 62 points once, and scored 52 another time. The Cardinals never scored fewer than 21 points.
Marshall, winner of the last two Mid-American Conference championships, was only slightly more restrained. The Herd, despite losing wide receiver Randy Moss to the NFL, still averaged 29.8 points per game.
Marshall, whose only blot on an otherwise perfect slate was a 34-13 loss at Bowling Green, scored 42 points three times.
"I see it as being a lot of spectacular plays," said Nate Poole, Marshall's leading receiver with 49 receptions for 616 yards. "The ball will get tossed around a whole lot."
Redman, a junior who sat out Louisville's 35-23 season-ending victory over Army with an injury, has passed for 4,042 yards and 29 touchdowns with just 15 interceptions.
"That's the way we're going into the game," Redman said. "We expect them to score a lot of points. Every time we touch the ball, we feel like we can take it down and score.
"We have to have a mistake-free ballgame because we respect them an awful lot."
Pennington, also a junior, threw for 3,419 yards and 24 touchdowns with seven interceptions this season. He believes Louisville's defense will try to force turnovers.
"They're an opportunistic defense which tries to make a play here and there to get their offense back out on the field," Pennington said. "That's the key to their strategy."
It has been Pennington who has exemplified the grit and determination for Marshall, which won two Division I-AA titles in the 1990s along with back-to-back MAC titles. He engineered a 23-17 victory over Toledo in the MAC championship game despite sustaining a painful groin pull in the second quarter.
"I expect myself 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 really comes together and stick with each other.
"I just 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."
Louisville knows something about playing hard, too. The Cardinals, who were 1-10 a year ago, made a complete turnaround in their first season under coach John L. Smith.
"This system really fits our personnel and kind of our personality," Redman said. "It's pretty much a big play, run and gun it. It's fun. It fits out personality real well."
It's likely to light up the scoreboard, that's for sure.
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