Houston game holds high stakes
HUNTINGTON -- Nine months for 10 days.
That was the catch phrase of the day as Marshall Thundering Herd football coach Doc Holliday addressed the media at a press conference Tuesday.
In essence, it means the Herd has been putting in nine months of work, including spring and fall camps, and everything hinges on the next 10 days, when they must beat Houston at home and East Carolina on the road if Marshall (4-6, 3-3 Conference USA) is to become eligible for a bowl game.
Marshall and Houston (4-6, 3-3) play Saturday at noon in Joan C. Edwards Stadium. the game is televised on CSS, which is Huntington cable Ch. 68. Marshall visits East Carolina (6-4. 5-1) for a Friday, Nov. 23, contest.
"You have to give everything you've got for 10 days," Holliday said. "You work your tail off for nine months for 10 days and two opportunities, that's what it's come to. That's the message (the team) has gotten."
Holliday said the first order of business is to focus entirely on the Houston Cougars.
The good news for the Herd is that Cougars quarterback Case Keenum, who terrorized Marshall last year -- the sixth he was at Houston -- is gone, along with several of his favorite targets. Tailback Charles Sims is doubtful for the Cougars Saturday.
"You hate to see a kid get hurt," Holliday said, adding he thinks Sims is perhaps the best running back in C-USA.
There is also bad news for Marshall on the injury front.
Senior wide receivers Aaron Dobson and Antavious Wilson, both dealing with injuries, will likely not play, along with senior linebacker Devin Arrington, Holliday said.
On paper, both teams are fairly similar -- fast, high-scoring offense with porous defense.
Marshall averages 511 yards of offense per game and scores 38.8, while the Cougars are at 473 and 30.8. On defense, Marshall allows 41 points per game while Houston gives up 37.
Houston has averaged more than 35 points in its last five games, but, with a younger team, tends to turn the ball over a bit more.
But that isn't necessarily good news for Marshall. Marshall has won the turnover battle in two C-USA games, a combined 7-0 over UCF and UAB. Both were losses.
The Houston game is Marshall's Senior Day, and the Herd will honor it's eight seniors before the game, although, as Holliday mentioned, some of them might not be in pads.
Two of those seniors are Boston College transfers Dominick LeGrande and Okechukwu Okoroha, who have only been with the team this season.
"You take the two BC kids out, there's six of them," Holliday said. "It won't be a long senior day. I'm not going to be standing on the 50 very darn long, I know that.
"But those are great kids, they're special because they're here," Holliday said. "Next year, we'll have about 23 or 24 running out there. If you've got six kids, you haven't done a good job of keeping people around. When we have a senior day when you're honoring 25 guys, you know you're in good shape because you've got some depth and some leadership and you've got what you need to be a good football team."
If Marshall is able to defeat Houston, the Herd will be playing for bowl eligibility against rival ECU in Greenville, N.C. at 2 p.m., Friday, Nov. 23, the day after Thanksgiving.