Chuck Landon: Best place to play Pirates is at home
MIAMI — Home, sweet, home.
That’s where Marshall’s title game against East Carolina will be played at noon on “Black Friday.”
Otherwise, Marshall might as well concede the contest that will decide the East Division championship of Conference USA.
Goodness knows, the Herd isn’t capable of defeating a quality team such as East Carolina on the road. Marshall’s only prayer is to clutch opponents to the warm bosom of “The Joan.”
Marshall proved that once and for all here Saturday night against lowly FIU. The Panthers were 1-9. Their only victory was a 24-23 verdict over winless Southern Miss.
How bad is FIU?
The website ranks the “Bottom 10” among the 125 Football Bowl Subdivision programs. FIU weighs in at No. 7 ahead of only Southern Miss, Georgia State, Miami (Ohio), Hawaii, Northwestern and UConn.
FIU is bad enough to make a Jay Leno monologue.
Yet, did Marshall dispose of this hapless opponent here Saturday night? Did the Herd make quick work of this incompetent football program? Did MU mercifully put an FIU program that is begging for euthanasia out of its misery?
Of course not.
Remember, this game was on the road. That’s where Marshall makes sure all opponents are created equal.
So, Marshall did what it almost always does on the road. It started slow on all three sides of the ball.
The Herd’s defense allowed FIU’s impotent offense to drive 49 yards on eight plays — a distressing average of 6.1 yards per play — for a 43-yard field goal and a 3-0 lead.
And MU’s offense?
It produced only 57 yards on 18 plays, didn’t score a point in the first quarter and the Herd trailed, 3-0, at the end of the first quarter.
That gave Marshall the ignominious distinction of being the first opponent to trail FIU at the end of the first quarter all season.
I repeat, all season.
That is humiliating.
Sure, Marshall eventually wore the pitiful Panthers down, taking a 34-3 lead in the third quarter and finally settling for a 48-10 win before an announced crowd of 15,891 that featured about 18,000 empty seats.
But this was FIU.
Hapless, hopeless, it-has-everything-to-lose-and-always-does FIU.
A team with an 8-3 record like Marshall shouldn’t have to wear down the FIUs of the FBS world. That’s like having to wear down Miami (Ohio), Gardner-Webb and Southern Miss.
Which might have happened if Marshall had played that trio on the road.
That’s the alarming part of Marshall’s so very deceptive 3-3 road record. The Herd actually came into the FIU game with the albatross of being out-scored on the road this season, 171-170, dangling from its neck.
Not next week, thanks to the East Division championship game being played in Edwards Stadium. But what if the C-USA title game is hosted by Rice? And what about a bowl game? It definitely won’t be at home.
That’s what was important about this road game at FIU. It was Marshall’s last chance to prove it could establish a road presence. It was Marshall’s final opportunity to prove it’s more than a “Paper Herd” on the road.
It didn’t happen.
“East Carolina played pretty well against N.C. State today,” said MU coach Doc Holliday during his post-game press conference. “But we have them at our place.”
Chuck Landon is a sports columnist for The Herald-Dispatch. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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