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Sholten Singer/The Herald-Dispatch Virginia Tech players celebrate a touchdown in front of Marshall linebacker Jaquan Yulee (2) during an NCAA football game on Saturday, Dec. 1, 2018, at Lane Stadium in Blacksburg, Va.

HUNTINGTON — Marshall University football players are not fully back to work as they focus on academics and getting prepared for final exams while the coaching staff hits the road for a recruiting push.

However, players spoke Monday of the importance of the bowl practices in the next two weeks to correct mistakes that plagued the team Saturday in its 41-20 loss at Virginia Tech.

The only thing on the players' minds as they enter their final game of the season is finishing the season strong, which means Marshall (8-4) earning a win over South Florida (7-5) in the Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl at 8 p.m. Dec. 20 in Raymond James Stadium at Tampa, Fla.

"Especially after last game when we fell short," Marshall senior linebacker Chase Hancock said. "Even if we would have won the game, I don't think we would be lax, but I think that it's very important that we end on a win for the 2018 season. When people talk about Marshall and 2018, what will they say? I think it's important that we go out on a good note."

No matter where the opportunity occurs, a bowl game is supposed to be a reward to teams for a successful season, giving them a bonus at season's end to enjoy one more game together with their teammates.

Marshall's Doc Holliday has been successful in all of his bowl appearances as a head coach, winning all five. Much of that success correlates with the pre-game preparation that occurs in bowl practices.

Holliday is utilizing the additional practice time to keep veteran players sharp and as almost a pre-spring practice session for younger players by allowing them to get meaningful repetitions in live situations near the end of each practice.

The approach his proven beneficial as veteran players stay locked in, but don't get overworked in what will be their 13th game of the year while the young players gain confidence during the practice sessions that allows them to have a bigger impact, should they be called on for a role in the bowl contest.

Marshall defensive end Ryan Bee said it will be fun to enjoy one last ride with his Marshall teammates, but at the end of the day, it is still a business trip for the Herd to finish off the season right with a win over a talented South Florida team.

"We can't think it's over," Bee said. "We've got another game. We've got to take it just as serious as we have the last 12. We've got a couple days off now to recoup from the long season and get whatever bumps and bruises we have worked out. Then, we'll start practice probably Thursday. We've got to iron out those wrinkles that kind of crept up on us the last few weeks. We look forward to getting back to work."

Marshall's team will practice in Huntington for the next week-plus before flying to Tampa, Florida, to start the bowl festivities on the morning of Dec. 16.

Gasparilla Bowl: Marshall (8-4) vs. South Florida (7-5)

8 p.m. Dec. 20, Raymond James Stadium, Tampa, Fla.

TV: ESPN

Radio: WDGG 93.7-FM, ESPN 94.1-FM and 930-AM

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