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MU Notebook: Marshall's mental toughness to be tested

Sep. 18, 2012 @ 12:00 AM

There's an old adage that states "games aren't played on paper."

In Marshall's case, that is a good thing heading into Saturday's football contest in Houston at Rice. That's because all the signs point to a letdown for the Thundering Herd this week.

Not only is it well-documented that Marshall is 0-for-Texas in its football past, the city of Houston has been particularly unkind.

Houston is known as "Space City" because of its prominence in the aeronautics industry, but it fits the bill for Marshall in terms of the space between the scores of the teams when the Herd plays there.

In three meetings in Houston (two with Houston, one with Rice), Marshall has been doubled up on the scoreboard to the tune of 133-66.

In addition to the difficulties in Houston and Texas, the Herd has also not fared well in games following emotional defeats, such as the one it faced Saturday in a close 27-24 loss to Ohio.

Marshall defensive coordinator Chris Rippon is noted for saying "the past is only a point of reference," and Herd players are eager to back up Rippon's statement by getting on track this weekend in the conference opener.

"You just have to throw that out the window and just play," safety Dominick LeGrande said. "That doesn't mean anything. It's just talk because the game still has to be played. I feel like that puts the wrong thing in guys' heads that are young and don't know how to handle it too well. I just want to feed them the right confidence."

In addition to getting his teammates' minds right, LeGrande and his fellow veterans also have the charge of making sure the team stays hyped up despite playing in a difficult atmosphere.

Rice Stadium is a large and spacious venue that was originally built to accommodate 70,000 people, but renovations have scaled it back to a 47,000-seat facility.

That is still plenty of seating, considering the Owls averaged just 17,329 fans per contest in 2011 and only got 23,105 -- less than half of capacity -- for the season-opener against Pac-12 member UCLA this season.

It's an emptiness which leaves the atmosphere feeling like anything but a college football Saturday.

Ironically, that means the Herd will have to bring plenty of energy to the city known as "The Energy Capital of the World" if it hopes to bring a win back.

PURDUE GAME TIME: The Big Ten announced on Monday that the Sept. 29 matchup between Marshall and Purdue in West Lafayette, Ind., will be a 3:30 p.m. kickoff televised by the Big Ten Network.

CONFERENCE FOCAL POINT: Marshall's 3:30 p.m. contest against Rice this Saturday is the lone conference matchup on tap for this weekend.

The game, which will be televised on CSS, is the conference opener for both teams.

BAILIFF MISSES PRESSER: Rice head coach David Bailiff missed his weekly press conference Monday because he was home with his ill mother in central Texas.

Grant Traylor is a reporter for The Herald-Dispatch. Contact him at 304-526-2759 or gtraylor@herald-dispatch.com. Follow him on Twitter (@GrantTraylor).

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