Marshall close to rushing record
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- West Virginia's Rasheed Marshall has already run past Michael Vick in the Big East record book. Next up, Donovan McNabb.
Marshall needs 44 rushing yards on Thursday night against Syracuse to break McNabb's conference mark of 1,561 career yards for a quarterback.
"When I hear Syracuse, I think Donovan McNabb first," Marshall said. "I would love to break Donovan's record. It would be a great accomplishment, but the primary concern is winning the game."
Sole possession of first place in the Big East is at stake when Syracuse (3-3, 1-0) travels to No. 15 West Virginia (5-1, 1-0).
"These are the ones that count the most," West Virginia coach Rich Rodriguez said. "Our first goal every year is the Big East championship, and that hasn't changed since year one. Being the defending champs, we're probably targeted more, but it should make us defend it harder."
Marshall will try to send West Virginia to its third straight win over Syracuse, something that hasn't happened since 1972-74.
Last season, it was Marshall's arm that helped beat the Orange. He threw a pair of touchdown passes to Chris Henry in the 34-23 win.
Marshall already holds the single-season league rushing record for quarterbacks with 666 yards in 2002, surpassing the mark Vick set at Virginia Tech. Marshall has 339 yards this season.
"He's having his best year for us by far," Rodriguez said. "He's the same guy he was for us four years ago. He knows it's a humbling profession and you're only one bad game away. He's had people boo him, at home and on the road. He's handled it all the same way."
Despite his rushing success, Marshall hasn't dominated his offense like Vick or McNabb did, in part because West Virginia has had a stable of quality running backs. Marshall has yet to be named to the all-Big East first team.
In a 31-19 win over Connecticut last week, Marshall got his first career 100-yard rushing game and became the first WVU player to have 100 yards rushing and passing in a game since Major Harris in 1987.
"Donovan was very quick. The Marshall kid is very, very quick," said Syracuse coach Paul Pasqualoni. "I think if you put them in a 40-yard dash, the Marshall kid would win by a step or two. He really can do a lot of damage running the ball."
A loss for Syracuse, which is 0-3 against ranked opponents this season, could further cloud Pasqualoni's job security and force the Orange to win three of their final four games to become bowl eligible.
Syracuse ranks last in the league in total offense and passing yards, and its 20-point scoring average is just one better than Temple. The Orange are converting just 26 percent of their third downs.
In each of its losses, Syracuse was held to 113 yards or less on the ground. Leading rusher Walter Reyes was limited to 27 yards on 14 carries in a 19-13 loss at home Oct. 9 to Florida State, a game the Orange led 10-3 at halftime.
"I've learned over the years that when people criticize you, you have to sort it out," said Pasqualoni, who is in his 14th season as Syracuse coach. "There's some criticism that's totally unwarranted and there's some criticism that has a good point to it. Nobody likes to hear it, but you've got to be mentally tough enough in this game that you can keep your focus, move on and try to win a game."
Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press
MORE COLLEGE FOOTBALL HEADLINES
- Winston's accuser goes public in documentary
- Kiffin to remain Bama OC, won't jump to NFL
- Ohio St. celebrates title in front of 45K fans
- Abdullah leads North by South in Senior Bowl