Chuck Landon: Herd motivated in role of underdog
This is a tale of two lines.
It all started when Las Vegas oddsmakers established a betting line Sunday for Marshall's game against Southern Miss at 7 p.m., Saturday, in Hattiesburg, Miss.
That was the first line.
Then, Marshall players were informed of the spread on the game during weekly interviews Monday in the Big Green Room at Edwards Stadium.
That's when the second line occurred.
It was drawn in the sand.
That's because Las Vegas has made winless Southern Miss a 2.5-point favorite to beat Marshall despite the Golden Eagles' 0-6 record.
Marshall players' reaction?
It was a lot more predictable than Las Vegas picking Southern Miss over the Herd.
"It just shows that we ain't got no respect," said linebacker D.J. Hunter.
Expecting the other shoe to drop? Wait for it. Hunter was busy using the toe of it to scuff that proverbial line in the sand.
"But I guess we're going to get it this week, right?" he continued.
It's called motivation, folks. And Las Vegas supplied an entire casino full for Marshall on Monday.
"I don't really care who is favored," said Hunter. "I'm just focusing on me and my team. I know what our team can do. We're going to be ready this week."
Yet, it's an undeniable slap in the face. And, yes, it does indeed show disrespect for Marshall's football team.
"Yeah, it does," admitted a tight-lipped Hunter.
Looking for a way to make a game between an 0-6 team and a 2-4 opponent more interesting?
I think we've found it.
Just ask Tommy Shuler.
"Awwww," said Marshall's standout slot receiver when he learned Southern Miss is a 2.5-point favorite. "I didn't know that. We're going to play ball. I'm surprised by that. I feel like we should be favored.
"But we're going to come to play ball. It's going to be a ball game. I feel like Southern Miss isn't the team of last year (Conference USA champions), but I don't take anybody lightly. We can be playing babies, but we've got to go out there and play ball."
Gator Hoskins couldn't agree more. But he's one of very few Marshall players who weren't offended by the surprising spread.
"I like being the underdog," reasoned the tight end. "It just makes us play harder. ... prove a point. We have to come out there and prove ourselves. We're 2-4 and I know we're much better than our record, but we just have to prove it."
Count Rakeem Cato among the unpleasantly surprised players, but he was one of few who learned about the line on Sunday. Since then, the quarterback has put the situation in perspective.
"It surprised me last night," said Cato. "I heard the spread was three points."
That's what it opened at, but quickly dropped to 2.5.
"That doesn't faze me," said Cato evenly. "I know we have to come out and win the ball game, that's all I know. That's all we can do. We can't worry about what Vegas thinks or anyone else thinks.
"We've got to come together as one because we're the only ones playing that day. We can't let anybody else distract us or think about those things.
"We have to win the ball game, no matter what Vegas says."
But perspective aside, there's no denying the line has become a distinct source of motivation for Marshall this week.
Now, we'll see what happens when the chips are down.
Chuck Landon is a columnist for The Herald-Dispatch. Call him at 304-526-2827 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.