Josh Jenkins could not be persuaded to even consider the Marshall game anything other than the season opener.
Jenkins says there's a "family" feel to the offensive line.
The two intrastate foes meet Saturday at Noon at Milan Puskar Stadium in the annual Friends of Coal Bowl.
“Every game is important to me,” Jenkins said Tuesday night. “I’m not going to single Marshall out because I’m an instate guy. Do I want to win against Marshall? Yes. But every game is important and they just happen to be the first on the schedule. The first game is important to everyone, whether you’re from Florida or West Virginia.”
It could be the final meeting between the two schools.
“That’s out of my control,” Jenkins said when asked if he hated to see the series come to an end. “I don’t really have a comment on that.”
He did talk about the offensive line, and the “family” bond between the group.
“That’s a key,” Jenkins said. “Even with coach (Bill) Bedenbaugh. If we have a problem, we know we can go to him. We five guys do so much together. And it transfers to the field, with our timing, our communication, the way we can get onto each other. It all plays a big key.”
The offensive linemen, which includes center Joe Madsen, guard Jeff Braun and tackles Quinton Spain and Pat Eger, often go out for meals together. It brings to mind visions of a grand feast of behemoths. So, which giant can eat more?
“Man, that’s a good question,” Jenkins said. “Spain can eat. Everyone can eat. You’re looking at a bunch of 310 pounders, you know what I mean? Spain, I’m going to go with Spain.”
When told that Jenkins had pointed out the biggest eater of the bunch, Spain laughed.
“I know he said me,” Spain said. “But I don’t eat that much like that anymore. I can do it, but I’ve slowed down now.”
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“My friends and family will call me and ask me about it,” Austin, a senior inside receiver/kick returner said. “They will let me know what they heard on SportsCenter or things like that. I don’t really pay attention to it though. I am just thankful that my name is being mentioned with that type of award. I am going to keep marching forward with the right attitude, and hopefully, my name is called at the end of the year.”
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Fellow inside receiver Jordan Thompson, who will make his first career start against Marshall, is certainly armed with the confidence to become an explosive player in coach Dana Holgorsen’s high-octane offensive juggernaut.
“I think I am perfect for this type of offense,” Thompson said. “ I bring speed, and I am smart as far as reading coverages. I picked up the playbook pretty quickly. I feel like I can contribute to this team, and I feel like we are going to go far this season.
He has been the subject of a lot of hype after reporting in the spring and basically holding his own. He said the fact that he has guys like Austin and Stedman Bailey to mentor him has helped his progression. And he said all goals he had are team oriented.
“We have a lot of playmakers around here,” said Thompson, a 5-foot-7, 172 pound Katy, Texas native. “Tavon (Austin) has been mentioned in the Heisman run. Also, going to the Big 12 has a lot of hype. We are not going to let that get in our heads, but we definitely have a goal of winning the Big 12. We also want to contend for a national title. I am in a perfect situation.”
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Shaq Rowell, a 6-4, 308-pound redshirt junior, will make his first start on the Mountaineers’ defensive line.
The Ohio native said he was nervous but looks forward to being on the field.
“To be honest, I am a little nervous to start, but I am excited too,” Rowell said. “Last year, I sat on the sidelines and watched Jorge (Wright) play – that wasn’t fun. Then again, that showed me that I had a lot to work on if I wanted to play. My spot is never guaranteed. Every week I have something to prove. Christian (Brown) is right behind me, and he is hungry like a dog that hasn’t eaten in a week.”
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Boundary safety Darwin Cook is certainly impressed by Marshall sophomore quarterback Rakeem Cato.
“He is bound to be better than last year, because it was his first start when we played against them last year,” Cook said. “I expect to see a better quarterback this season. He is going to be smarter. He looks as though he is going to be really good this year.”