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Point total of 124 sets C-USA record

Nov. 24, 2012 @ 12:00 AM

GREENVILLE, N.C. -- Everyone knows Conference USA is an offensive-oriented, pass-happy, light-up-the-scoreboard league.

But even this high-scoring conference never has seen the likes of Marshall's 65-59 double overtime loss to East Carolina here Friday before 46,317 fans at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium.

In fact, the MU-East Carolina game was the highest-scoring, regular-season contest in C-USA history as the two teams combined for 124 points.

The previous high was TCU's 62-55 win over Houston during the 2003 season.

The highest-scoring game this season in C-USA was SMU's 72-42 victory over Houston.

Defense? In C-USA?

Only in the league's championship game.

SERIES MIGHT END: This might have been Marshall's last visit to Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium.

Despite a 14-game history between MU and East Carolina; despite the emotional bond that always will exist between the two schools after the tragic Marshall plane crash that occurred on Nov. 14, 1970, as the Herd returned after a 17-14 loss to the Pirates here; despite both schools being members of C-USA, this series appears to be in jeopardy.

That's because conference reconfiguration triggered by the Big Ten is likely to create at least one opening, if not two vacancies, in the Big East Conference.

East Carolina is considered a prime candidate to fill one of those openings.

More important, the Pirates have made no skull and crossbones about their desire to leave C-USA and join the Big East.

Arrrgh.

In fact, East Carolina went so far as to hire noted consultant Chuck Neinas within the last year to help the school reach the Big East. That would mean the Pirates would join a list of C-USA defectors including UCF, Memphis, SMU and Houston headed to the Big East.

That's why Marshall's loss to East Carolina could have been the next-to-last game in this series.

If East Carolina is indeed successful in its bid to join the Big East, the Pirates would probably leave C-USA after the 2013-14 school year. That could make East Carolina's visit to Edwards Stadium during the 2013 football season the final game of the series.

The hope is the Marshall-East Carolina series could continue on a non-conference basis, due to the emotional connection between the two schools. That is evidenced by statuary memorializing the 1970 plane crash not just at Edwards Stadium, but also at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium.

Continuing the series would seem fitting in whatever format.

MARQUEE WINS: Surprisingly, neither East Carolina nor Marshall has one this season.

In fact, neither football program has even beaten a Football Bowl Subdivision opponent with a winning record this season.

Marshall's victories include wins over FBC school Western Carolina (1-10), Rice (5-6), Southern Miss (0-11), UAB (3-8) and Houston (4-7).

More amazingly, even East Carolina doesn't have a victory over a FBS program among its eight victories. The Pirates have wins over FBC foe Appalachian State, Southern Miss, UTEP (3-8), Memphis (3-8), UAB, Houston and Tulane (2-9).

Think that's surprising?

As it turns out, East Carolina hasn't beaten a foe with a winning record since the 2010 season.

DOBSON RETURNS: Senior wide receiver Aaron Dobson played for the first time since the initial play of the Memphis game on Nov. 3.

And what a return he made.

The X-receiver beat East Carolina's man-to-man coverage for a 32-yard touchdown pass with 10:11 remaining in the first quarter. But, actually, between quarterback Rakeem Cato's scramble and Dobson's depth in the end zone, the ball traveled more than 50 yards in the air.

Dobson has been sidelined with an injury to his right knee and is playing while wearing a big brace on it. But he finished with four catches for 61 yards and a TD here Saturday.

PERSONNEL: Trent Martin took over kickoff duties from ailing Justin Haig, who is bothered with back spasms.

Craig Wilkins started at wide receiver, Essray Taliaferro made his first start of the season at running back and Josh Lovell started at left guard.

Tight end Gator Hoskins, who leads the Herd in touchdown receptions with 10, was sidelined with a shoulder injury. As a result, Marshall started four wideouts.

In fact, the only time tight ends Eric Frohnapfel and C.J. Crawford played in the first half was as safeties in Marshall's prevent defense on East Carolina's final play of the half.

Running back Kevin Grooms, who starred in Marshall's win over Houston a week ago, was slowed by an injury to his left knee.

REVOLVING DOOR: Marshall started its seventh different combination in 12 games in the offensive line.

The starters included Jordan Jeffries at left tackle, Lovell at left guard, Cam Dees at center, Chris Jasperse at right guard and Garrett Scott at right tackle.

So much for chemistry.

SHULER RECORD: Slot receiver Tommy Shuler had 14 catches for 141 yards and two touchdowns. That gave the sophomore the school single-season receptions record with 110, breaking the mark set by Mike Barber in 1987.

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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