Unique game for MU coaches Price, Brown
HUNTINGTON - Don’t be surprised if fans at Lane Stadium start cheering a bit Saturday when Marshall University’s defense comes out for pregame warmups.
There might even be a yell for “Monster” or “Fat Daddy” mixed in, but Virginia Tech fans won’t be yelling for Marshall players. Instead, Virginia Tech’s faithful might be paying respect to two Marshall assistant coaches who are revered within Hokies’ lore.
Thundering Herd defensive line coaches J.C. Price and Cornell Brown played together at Virginia Tech from 1993-95.
The tenacity they brought to the Hokies’ defensive line during those years is the same as what they’ve brought to the coaching profession.
And if you think there is a letdown in that tenacity because the Herd (8-3) is going against their alma mater, you’d be wrong.
This week, Virginia Tech is the enemy, and all it takes is one look at their faces after being asked how it feels to be going back to Blacksburg, Virginia.
“It’s another game,” Price said. “You just stay focused on what you’re going there to do and that’s win No. 9 for our team. I understand what it is for them, but it doesn’t lessen the importance for our team trying to build what we’re building on and continue the season we’re having.”
So, wait a second. There is no nostalgic feeling when the teams hit the field and Metallica’s “Enter Sandman” blares over the loudspeakers, sending Lane Stadium into a frenzy?
“That’s modern-day stuff,” Brown said.
“They didn’t play that when we played,” Price said. “I’ve heard it twice - when I coached at JMU (James Madison, 2010) and when I coached at Marshall (2013).”
James Madison shocked the Hokies in that 2010 matchup and the Herd took Virginia Tech to triple-overtime before falling 29-21 in a rain-soaked afternoon affair at Lane Stadium.
Price said his goal this week is to have a winning record as an opposing coach at Lane Stadium, all the while remaining stoic as to any type of emotional ties to the game. Doing so would mean a Marshall win - a victory that would bring an end to the active FBS leader in consecutive bowl appearances that Virginia Tech (5-6) has accrued in the last 25 years.
That streak began in 1993 with Price - a.k.a. “Fat Daddy” - and Brown - a.k.a. “Monster” - helping lead a defensive turnaround that was engineered by then-head coach Frank Beamer and pushed along by the emergence of Bud Foster, who served as linebackers coach at that time before moving to co-defensive coordinator by 1995. Foster has been the Hokies’ defensive coordinator since then.
In Foster’s first season in the role as defensive coordinator (co-defensive coordinator at the time), Virginia Tech featured the nation’s No. 1 run defense, allowing just 77.4 yards per game.
Price and Brown were at the forefront of that success.
“Those guys. ... are special guys to me,” Foster told Richmond Times-Dispatch newspaper writer Mike Barber. “They are two of my favorite players of all-time here.”
Now, Price and Brown lead a Marshall defense that, like the Virginia Tech defenses of their playing days, is among the nation’s best in rush defense.
Marshall is No. 6 in the nation, allowing just 100.5 yards on the ground per game.
Virginia Tech is a team that, like it has for any years, wants to establish the run to see success. Therefore, Marshall’s film study has been intense in preparing for the battle, even though defensive coordinator Adam Fuller said there was a unique aspect from the Herd angle while they were breaking down Virginia Tech’s 34-31 overtime win over the University of Virginia that paved the way for Saturday’s matchup with the Hokies.
“For all that was at stake for those two teams last week, we had our own to deal with,” Fuller said. “We have (linebackers coach) Byron Thweatt, who played at UVa and then we have Cornell and J.C (from VT). We’re watching the game and every time Tech makes a mistake, I hear mumbling and every time UVa missed a tackle, I hear mumbling. ... It’s funny because we’re watching that tape and you’ve got three guys that were all prominent players at their programs.”
While much of the focus this week has been on the return of Price and Brown, they say those focused on that aspect are missing a bigger picture.
“I hate to ruin your story,” Price said.
“It’s no comparison to it, though,” Brown followed. “This is 2018. Last time we did it together there was ’95. That’s the difference. It’s not as big a deal as you think it is for us.”