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Chuck Landon: Both WVU, Marshall fans hungry for victory

Nov. 21, 2012 @ 12:41 AM

Imagine being on a diet during Thanksgiving.

That's what it is like to be a major college sports fan in the state of West Virginia.

No meat. No potatoes. No gravy. No pumpkin pie.

Just lots and lots of celery.

I mean, who are we supposed to cheer for during this Thanksgiving holiday week?

The turkey hunters?

Or the turkeys?

The turkeys, metaphorically speaking, would be the football and basketball teams at Marshall University and West Virginia University.

They've been disappointing enough to make a glutton lose his appetite.

Take the Herd, for example.

All the preseason talk was about reaching the Conference USA football championship game. All the expectations by Marshall fans and coaches alike were for a minimum of an 8-4 regular-season record.

Why, it was just a question of which bowl game Marshall would reach.

But six stunning losses later by the under-achieving Herd, it will take an upset by Marshall over rival East Carolina at 2 p.m., Friday, in Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium at Greenville, N.C., just to become bowl eligible.

Somebody pass the celery.

Nobody saw this coming. Not me. Not you. Not Doc Holliday. Nobody.

But, then again, who knew Marshall was going to gamble an entire season on a dink-and-dunk, pass-oriented offense whose ultimate goal was to run as many plays per game as humanly possible?

Who knew the Herd would throw its defense under the bus and, then, spin the tires just so it could run 90-some plays per game?

Who knew the enormous number of plays would result in an enormous number of injuries that would turn Marshall's special teams into a special needs unit?

Then, there's WVU.

Marshall's hopes of reaching the C-USA championship game are small baked potatoes compared to WVU believing it actually had a chance to play for the football national championship.

Five consecutive losses later, the Mountaineers are in the same leaky life boat as Marshall. WVU and the Herd both still need a sixth win just to reach a mediocre bowl game.

Losing your appetite about now?

Unlike Marshall, the Mountaineers have two more chances to reach bowl eligibility. First, WVU plays Iowa State at 3:30 p.m., Friday, in Ames, Iowa. Then, it hosts Kansas in the regular-season finale on Dec. 1 in Mountaineer Field.

WVU could win both or lose both.

My guess is the Mountaineers will suffer an emotional hangover after the tough loss to Oklahoma and lose Friday to Iowa State. But WVU should bounce back with a win over Kansas. That will give WVU the opportunity to play an average Big East opponent in a lower-tier bowl.

Or not.

Either way, instead of being a savior leading the Mountaineers to the promise land, coach Dana Holgorsen has been more of a wild-haired, balding Moses wandering around in the desert.

That's why Marshall and WVU fans alike rejoiced when basketball season finally arrived. But somebody forgot the stuffing.

First, WVU was humiliated by those renowned Mountaineer-slayers from Gonzaga, 84-50, in Spokane, Wash. That's a long way to travel to get outscored by an embarrassing 45-18 margin during the first half.

Then, Marshall, armed with talent and high expectations but little effort on defense or the boards, managed to lose consecutive games to such marquee opponents as South Dakota State and Hofstra.

Just what Herd fans needed, a 2-3 start.

So, as Thanksgiving Day approaches the fan bases at both Marshall and WVU hunger for success by their respective schools.

What a time to be on a diet.

Chuck Landon is a columnist for The Herald-Dispatch. Call him at 304-526-2827, or email him at clandon@herald-dispatch.com.

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