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MU Notebook: C-USA title Marshall's main focus

Sep. 19, 2012 @ 12:00 AM

The only record that matters this week for Marshall's football program is 0-0.

Not its all-time 0-8 record in Texas, not its overall 1-2 season record.

Just the unblemished 0-0 record it sports in Conference USA.

Marshall is hoping to keep that record unblemished when it heads to Houston for a 3:30 p.m., Saturday, matchup with Rice.

"This is everything we've been working for since we got on campus -- to win the conference," Marshall safety Okechukwu Okoroha said. "That's what everyone's goal around the country is. This is our first shot at the conference right here, so it's an exciting moment for everyone."

The Rice game is Marshall's first shot at play in C-USA, which in recent years has been comparable to basketball on turf. The intensity of battling rivals for a conference title gets paired with the fast pace of a run-and-gun style of play that features many high-octane offenses, making for an exciting atmosphere on the field.

"It's a different level," said Thundering Herd quarterback Rakeem Cato. "We play hard all the time, but you have to get your mind right for conference and eliminate the mistakes you've made this far. We really have to be on point because starting with Rice, this determines our season. We need to go down there and get this win."

One thing on the Herd's side is that the team has won three of its last four conference openers.

They hope to continue that mark this week against a Rice team that lost its last three conference openers.

"When you are talking about doing well in your conference, you have to make sure that you go play every game and have a shot at winning every game," Marshall head coach Doc Holliday said. "There's no doubt that the conference game makes it more important."

MCKELVEY LIKELY FINISHED: Linebacker Evan McKelvey will likely miss the rest of the season, pending the results of an MRI, according to Holliday.

McKelvey was injured on a kickoff in the third quarter of the Herd's 27-24 loss to Ohio on Saturday.

"He's got to get an MRI,but it doesn't look good for McKelvey," Holliday said. "He won't play this week for sure, and I would guess he may be finished up for the season, which is a shame because he was starting to mature and come along."

If it is a season-ending injury, McKelvey could be granted a medical redshirt down the line because he competed in less than 30 percent or three games of the season.

BOWL PROJECTION: Despite a 1-2 start, ESPN's latest bowl projections by contributors Mark Schlabach and Brad Edwards have the Herd bowling at season's end.

Schlabach projected that Marshall will be back in the Beef 'O' Brady St. Petersburg Bowl to face off against Big East member Pitt.

Edwards' latest projection has the Herd traveling to take part in the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl against Fresno State of the Mountain West Conference.

Grant Traylor is a reporter for The Herald-Dispatch. Contact him at 304-526-2759 or gtraylor@herald-dispatch.com. Follow him on Twitter (@GrantTraylor).

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