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Grant Traylor: Herd goes back to square one

Oct. 29, 2012 @ 12:34 AM

HUNTINGTON -- Marshall's season officially hit a crossroads on Saturday night with a 54-17 loss to UCF.

In fact, it might be argued the Herd was stuck on the tracks and hit by the oncoming train that was the Knights.

It is now dangerous territory for the Herd.

Hopes of an East division title and berth in the Conference USA championship game have been all but dashed, making for an interesting last four games of the season.

Simply put, the Herd has to win three of the last four to advance to a bowl game.

"We're going to come out play hard and practice hard," Marshall tight end Gator Hoskins said. "That's the only thing we know how to do -- go back to work."

That won't be an easy feat for the Herd.

This week's game is a home game against Memphis, which will come into Joan C. Edwards Stadium at 1-7.

However, if the Herd is still hanging its head after Saturday's loss, the Tigers could be dangerous. Remember, this is a Memphis team that rushed for 280 yards two weeks ago against the same UCF defense that allowed just 66 to Marshall on Saturday.

Marshall needs to take care of business this week in front of the home crowd to set up a tricky stretch run to close the season.

Two of the Herd's final three games are on the road -- a Nov. 10 contest at UAB, which has proven to be able to put points on the board in bunches despite being 1-7.

In three of their four conference losses, the Blazers have put up 35 points or more.

The trip to UAB precedes a Nov. 17 home date with Houston. The Cougars (4-4) will be battle-tested in the weeks leading up to that contest. They will travel to Greenville, N.C. to take on East Carolina next week before a home date with Tulsa prior to the trip to Huntington.

The Herd's final contest is the Nov. 23 post-Thanksgiving matchup at East Carolina. In addition to it being a rivalry game, the Pirates will be out to get the Herd after Marshall knocked them from a postseason berth with an overtime win in Huntington last season.

As the schedule shapes up, East Carolina could very well be in position to do the same with the Herd this year at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium.

Realistically, there isn't a team left on the schedule which Marshall doesn't have the talent to beat.

Then again, there are some losses hung on the Herd already this season in which Marshall has had better talent.

"It's very frustrating knowing that we can't do the things that we could do," Marshall quarterback Rakeem Cato said. "We're human. Things happen. You just have to keep going at it and keep working hard."

It will come down to execution and preparation each week as the Herd continues its quest for the postseason.

It starts with taking the right mindset to practice this week and players ridding themselves of the emotional hangover from Saturday's loss.

WORST LOSS IN A GENERATION: Saturday's 54-17 loss was the worst home loss in 30 years for a Marshall football team.

The last time a Marshall team got beat so soundly on its home turf was Nov. 13, 1982 in a 45-7 loss to Furman at the old Fairfield Stadium.

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) 526-2759. Follow him on Twitter (@GrantTraylor).

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