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Grant Traylor: MU season at crossroads after consecutive defeats

Oct. 08, 2012 @ 12:25 AM

HUNTINGTON -- There's a big, green elephant in the rooms of the Shewey Building right now.

And even though there aren't many who will talk about it, it's there.

During the Tulsa game, frustration was visible on the sidelines and Marshall quarterback Rakeem Cato hinted at it during the post-game interviews on Saturday as well.

The aggravation of losing close games is starting to mount with the Herd, and the pressure is mounting.

"2-4, that's our record. 2-4," Cato said with consternation evident. "I've never been a loser in my life. Never. I've always had a passion for winning and I know all the players on the team do, but we have to come together.

"We have to stop saying 'the next series' or 'the next drive.' We've got to get them now. It's time right now. Going into our bye week, we have to start winning now. We have no more room for losing at all."

Cato's right.

Marshall sits at 2-4 at the season's midway point with several tough games remaining on the schedule.

After the bye week, Marshall travels to "The Rock" in Hattiesburg, Miss., on Oct. 20 to take on Southern Miss in one of the conference's toughest venues.

That game precedes an Oct. 27 battle with UCF, which is the East division favorite. Marshall never has beaten the Knights since the two teams joined Conference USA in 2005.

There are also a pair of difficult road trips to UAB (Nov. 10) and East Carolina (Nov. 24) in the final stretch of the year.

The Herd must go 4-2 over the second half of the year to secure bowl eligibility and will need to fare even better to keep hopes of an East division championship alive.

It's a situation that has players on the brink and the Herd at a crossroads with the bye week ahead.

"These guys need a couple of days off," Marshall football coach Doc Holliday said. "We've gone for six straight weeks and we've not played the sisters of the poor every week. We've had six tough weeks of playing good football teams, and they need a break for a couple of days."

After the days off, the players have to get their minds right after dropping back-to-back contests in which, statistically, they fared better than the opposition.

Statistics are a funny thing.

They can speak volumes, but they often don't tell the whole story.

For a team to be putting up the statistical numbers Marshall has in comparison to opponents and still be sitting at 2-4 means one thing. There is a disconnect somewhere with getting on the same page when the chips are on the table.

How a team performs when the game is on the line is the difference between being a good team and a great team.

Good teams put themselves into position to win the game down the stretch.

Marshall has done that.

Great teams find ways to get it done once they get to the stretch.

The Herd is 0-3 in games where they were within striking distance in the fourth quarter (Yes, that counts Purdue as well because if the Herd executes a two-point conversion, the game is a one-score game).

That is something that is built through chemistry and trust -- aspects that statistics cannot define.

In a week where there is no game to accumulate gaudy statistics, the Herd needs to gain those intangibles quickly.

Cato almost challenged his teammates by saying the heart and desire of the team will be seen this week when there's no crowd to play for and no stats to build -- only practice and work.

"Talking ain't going to do nothing," Cato said. "You can talk, but you have to walk the walk."

It could be the difference between Marshall still achieving the goals of postseason and an East division championship or looking back at the end of the 2012 season and the first thought being one of unfulfilled potential.

Grant Traylor is a sports writer for The Herald-Dispatch. He can be reached by E-mail at gtraylor@herald-dispatch.com or by phone at (304) 526-2860. Follow him on Twitter (@GrantTraylor).

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