By Travis Andries
Football is a game of repetition and routine and its practices take on a rhythm and a cadence. So when temperatures soared last week, forcing the Marshall Tigers football team out of its traditional routine, hiccups on the field were to be expected. Toss in nearly two dozen new starters on offense and defense, a three-plus hour road trip and an opponent that neither the player nor coaches had seen before and you begin to sense just how out of their routine the Tigers were prior to last week's season opening loss to Robbinsdale Cooper.
Photo by Travis Andries
PJ Bot (18) is gobbled up in the backfield by a swarm of Marshall defenders during practice on Wednesday at Marshall High School. The Tigers host Fairmont on Friday at Mattke Field for their first home game of the 2013 season.
But even that 24-13 defeat, Marshall's first in the regular season since falling to Jackson County Central 27-17 on Sept. 24, 2010, could have been avoided amidst so many distractions. The Tigers were struck for three big-play touchdowns in the game (one rushing, one passing and one on special teams) and were an incompletion in the endzone from starting out 1-0 as opposed to 0-1.
The Tigers have no such distractions this week. The weather has cooled off, their game is at home, and their opponent, Fairmont, is one who the Tigers have seen on a consistent under head coach Terry Bahlmann.
"I think it's going to help a lot. With the squad that we have this year, we need routine and we need reps," Bahlmann said. "The weather has cooperated this week and we're able to get out and get some practice time in. Hopefully we'll be able to make a lot of improvement."
Marshall owns a three-game winning streak over the Cardinals, including a 40-14 thumping in Fairmont a year ago. But whereas the Tigers are still trying to fill the holes vacated by graduation, the Cardinals have experience all over the field. The Cardinals (1-0 overall) demonstrated their level of preparedness for the 2013 season in a 26-0 drubbing of Worthington.
"Fairmont's got a good program and it has been a good rivalry for us. We know they're going to come hungry and ready to play," Bahlmann said. "We made a lot of mistakes and I thought we lost our composure the last three minutes or so there (against Cooper). We need to clean those things up and we need to get our substitutions down, if somebody is injured who goes in for them and where they're supposed to be. Fairmont really threw the ball well last weekend so it's going to be a good challenge for our pass defense."
Junior quarterback Spencer Chirpich was 17 of 24 for 237 yards and four touchdowns in the Fairmont win. Chipich's preferred target was tight end Luke Becker who hauled in eight passes for 81 yards and a score, while split end Josh Eversman had two receiving touchdowns.
For the Tigers to extend their winning streak to four over Fairmont, limiting Becker's catches will be key.
"We want to stop the tight end with our defensive ends and be physical," Bahlmann said. "We want to try and make them one dimensional. And the Becker kid at receiver had a great game and their young quarterback starting his first game really threw the ball well. That's key for them. But we want to make them one dimensional and stop their run then put pressure on the quarterback."
Offensively, the Tigers will look to solve Fairmont's 4-4 base defense which has yet to yield a point on the season.
Kickoff for the game is scheduled for 7 p.m. at the Schwan Regional Event Center in Marshall, while the Marshall Football Booster Club and HyVee have teamed up for a pork chop on a stick fundraiser prior.