Posted by Tony Caridi on Tuesday, September 23, 2008 (10:30 am)
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There will be more than 60,000 fans jammed into Milan Puskar Stadium on Saturday afternoon and absolutely no one will have a more unique perspective than West Virginia assistant head coach Steve Dunlap. The uniqueness of his perspective won’t be based on where he’s standing, but rather on where he’s stood.
||Assistant head coach Steve Dunlap was coordinating the Marshall defense in 2007.
All-Pro Photography/Dale Sparks photo
A year ago, the Hurricane native wore the green and white of Marshall University as its football team’s defensive coordinator. In case you need a reminder from last year’s game, the halftime score read Marshall 13, West Virginia 6. Steve had stymied his alma mater’s high-powered offense.
However, the Mountaineers went with two tight ends in a power formation in the second half and overpowered the Herd on their way to a 48-23 victory.
This week Dunlap, who’s now back to wearing the colors that he had donned for 27 years as a player and coach, is helping create a game plan to slow a Marshall team that rolled up 34 points on the road in last Saturday’s win at Southern Mississippi.
Dunlap admits he has a tremendous advantage in preparing for this week’s encounter with his last employer simply because he knows their personnel, although he admits several Herd players have made tremendous improvement from where they were a year ago.
Dunlap said the Marshall offense now looks like what Head Coach Mark Snyder has always wanted—a Big 10 styled attack based on power running which sets up play action passes. The Herd were more pass-happy during Snyder’s first few seasons.
For the second game in a row, West Virginia will contend with a coach’s son at quarterback. Last week it was Colorado’s Cody Hawkins and this week it will be Mark Cann, who played for his dad at Landrum High School in South Carolina. Cann, a redshirt freshman, is big at 6-4 and 238 pounds who Dunlap describes as a left-hander with “a rocket release.” Cann has thrown for five touchdowns and 824 yards in his first four games.
Senior receiver Darius Passmore leads the team with 26 receptions, which are 18 more catches than Marshall’s second-best pass catcher Lee Smith’s eight grabs.
Dunlap thinks that Passmore and tight end Cody Slate may be the best individual talents that West Virginia will face this entire season. Passmore has totaled more than 100 yards in receptions in three of four games. Slate, a Mackey Award candidate, returned to form Saturday at Southern Miss after missing two games with an injury, catching four passes for 76 yards and a touchdown and carried the ball once for 35 yards.
West Virginia and Marshall on the same football field evokes an infinite number of emotions from everyone involved. But for Steve Dunlap, this weekend’s encounter has taken on a new meaning. Although beating Marshall is his only goal, he will freely admit that he has great respect for the school that gave him a job when he didn’t have one. Because of that he’ll always have a very unique perspective.