MORGANTOWN-Ask any head coach and he will tell you that the questions are many and the answers are few as you prepare to enter your season opener. Make that opener against the only other NCAA D-I school in your state and you can stay awake at night searching.
That is the case when second-year WVU head coach Dana Holgorsen and third-year Marshall head coach John 'Doc' Holliday face in preparation for Saturday's Friends of Coal Bowl.
"Nobody knows going into the first game," explained Holgorsen. "You can assume all you want to, but the bigger thing for game one is in-game adjustments, which I'm confident our coaches are going to be very aware of and alert to what is going on on the field, to the point where they can see what's going on and then talk about how we need to attack it either offensively or defensively and get it communicated to our players so they can adjust what they're doing."
Holgorsen and his staff displayed that ability several times during the Mountaineers' 10-3 campaign in 2011, which included a 70-33 victory over Clemson in the Orange Bowl, and the same could be said for Holliday and his group of assistants as they led the Thundering Herd to a 7-6 mark and a victory over Florida International (20-10) in the Beef O'Brady Bowl.
"Who knows what we're going to do offensively, right?" continued the coach. "Nobody knows for sure. We may throw something else out there that they haven't seen before. Defensively, it's widely known that we're running the 3-4 defense, but what does that mean?
"There may be some things we do defensively that they haven't prepared for. I'm sure that their defensive coaches have been studying football across the country for the last six or seven months and have come up with some different things that they're going to do against us."
Marshall at No. 11 West Virginia
TV/Radio: FX - (Justin Kutcher - play-by-play, Eric Crouch - analyst, Darius Walker - sideline) will broadcast the game live. Radio - Mountaineer Sports Network - (Tony Caridi - play-by-play, Dwight Wallace - analyst, Hoppy Kercheval - host, Jed Drenning - sideline) will broadcast the game live. Satellite Radio Broadcast - The West Virginia - Marshall game can be heard live on Sirius Channel 91 and the best of XM channel 91 with the MSN broadcast. Live Statistics - WVUsports.com. Twitter Updates - Twitter.com/WVUSportsScores.
Notes: Marshall is coached by John ''Doc'' Holliday, a 1979 graduate of West Virginia. The third-year coach has posted a 12-13 record in his two years in Huntington. Holliday served 23 years as a Mountaineer assistant coach for Frank Cignetti (1979), Hall of Famer Don Nehlen (1980-99) and most recently for former head coach Bill Stewart (2008-09). ... This marks the second meeting between WVU coach Dana Holgorsen and Marshall's Holliday. Holgorsen holds a 1-0 series mark against Holliday and Marshall after winning last year's weather-shortened game in Morgantown, 34-13, the season opener for both squads.
Two things about each team is known, however.
Both WVU and Marshall have outstanding weapons on offense returning and some big holes to fill defensively as they open the 2012 season.
WVU seniors Geno Smith and Tavon Austin have found their names listed among Heisman Trophy hopefuls on more than one occasion and Stedman Bailey, Shawne Alston and Dustin Garrison-if healthy enough to play-give the old gold and blue several standout weapons when it has the football. Marshall will counter with sophomore quarterback Rakeem Cato, senior wide receiver Aaron Dobson and running backs Tron Martinez and Travon Van.
Defensively, the Mountaineers lost first round draft pick Bruce Irvin as well as linebacker Najee Goode and defensive back Keith Tandy while the Thundering Herd saw standout defensive end Vinny Curry go to the Philadelphia Eagles in the second round of the NFL draft.
"I'm excited about game week. It seems like it's been forever since we played, but looking back on the last seven months, we've come a long way as a team. We added a lot of bodies and overcame a lot of injuries.
"We overcame several academic situations and 25 days of practice and camp to get to the point where we can finally focus on game week. It's been fun to try to get our guys focusing on somebody else other than themselves. We've worried ourselves so much over the past seven months that it's exciting to worry about someone else.
"We're excited to play our first game, and we understand the challenges Marshall is going to bring to the table. They're going to be a very motivated football team that is going to want to come up here and play well. We're excited about them coming up and bringing their best and seeing if we can match their effort and enthusiasm to a point we can win the game."