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Chuck Landon: Marshall to learn more next week

Sep. 09, 2012 @ 12:48 AM

So far, Marshall has run the gamut from ...

A to Z?

Nope, B to C.

First, the Herd played the best team on its schedule.

That's Top 10 ranked West Virginia University -- a member of collegiate football's upper echelon known as the Football Bowl Subdivision.

Namely, F-B-S.

The result was an embarrassing 69-34 loss to the Mountaineers.

Next, Marshall played the worst team on its schedule.

That would be unheralded Western Carolina -- a member of major college football's second level called the Football Championship Subdivision.

Namely, F-C-S.

The result was an embarrassing 52-24 loss for the Catamounts Saturday night before 25,317 fans at Edwards Stadium.

And what have we learned about Marshall's 2012 football team from these two blowouts?

Not much.

But that impossible to assess situation is about to be resolved. When Marshall hosts nearby rival Ohio University at 6:30 p.m., Saturday, in Edwards Stadium we will find out everything we need and want to know.

That's because the Ohio game has become the linch-pin for Marshall's season.

If the Herd wants to post the sort of season it envisions -- a minimum of eight wins -- it needs to take care of business against the Bobcats. If not, Marshall will have difficulty turning in the progress that head coach Doc Holliday and the fan base expect in Year Three.

This game is that crucial.

And that's because Ohio is the real deal.

There are knowledgeable football people who believe the Bobcats are at least the third-best and, perhaps, the second-best foe on Marshall's schedule.

Ohio proved that in its season-opener on Sept. 1 at Unhappy Valley by defeating once-mighty Penn State, 24-14, before 97,000 stunned fans in Beaver Stadium.

Notice I didn't call it an upset.

That's because it wasn't.

Bobcats quarterback Tyler Tettleton completed 31 of 41 passes for 324 yards and two touchdowns, running back Beau Blankenship rushed for 109 yards on 31 carries and Ohio thoroughly beat the Nittany Lions.

The best team won.

That's what happened the last time Marshall played Ohio, too.

Who can forget that humiliating loss in 2011? Most of us wish we could, but it's impossible to purge the embarrassing 44-7 loss in Athens, Ohio, from our memories.

The Herd needs the same recollection.

Usually, football is all about short-term memory. As in, forgetting the last game and moving on to the next opponent. But the Herd needs to remember the stunningly lopsided loss to Ohio.

Does it ever.

Marshall needs to remember Tettleton completing 20 of 29 passes for 285 yards and three touchdowns. MU needs to remember yielding 37 unanswered points to the Bobcats. The Herd needs to remember giving up 559 yards total offense to Ohio. Marshall needs to remember quarterback Rakeem Cato completing only 9 of 21 passes for 116 yards and tossing four first-half interceptions.

Most of all, the Herd needs to remember Tettleton's comment that Ohio ran the same play -- the bubble screen -- 19 times.

Marshall needs to recall all of that while it's watching videotape of Ohio's 51-24 win over New Mexico State Saturday night in Athens.

That's how important, how vital, how critical the game against Ohio is to Marshall. The Herd has to find a way to drop the first loss of the season on the Bobcats.

It isn't often that a team faces a must-win situation in only its third game of the season.

But that's the reality for Marshall this week.

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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