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Chuck Landon: Herd turns page from UCF, but fans fixate

Oct. 30, 2012 @ 11:20 PM

Athletes have convenient memories.

They win. They lose. They move on.

Even after a traumatizing loss like the 54-17 humiliation UCF handed Marshall on Saturday night?

Yes, even after that.

Just ask Rakeem Cato.

If there were ever a game the sophomore quarterback would like to delete from his memory, it's the embarrassing UCF defeat.

"Yeah, that one," said Cato. "For this year, it's that game. It was a terrible loss. But we can't do anything about it. The game is over with. We have to move on to the next game and hope to get that one."

See, there's that short-term memory loss.

But fans aren't wired that way. They don't have that latitude. Any defeat eats at a fan, but a loss of the magnitude that Marshall fans endured while sitting in rainy, chilly conditions Saturday night at Edwards Stadium doesn't just go away.

The rain gear dries. The hands get warm. But the defeat festers.

Does anybody believe the Marshall faithful have moved on to the Memphis game at 2 p.m., Saturday, in defeat-filled Edwards Stadium?

No.

That particular loss was too catastrophic, carried too many ramifications and left behind too much baggage. And guess what? That baggage is filled with questions.

Now, the fan base questions the ability of the coaching staff. Now, it questions the direction of the program. Now, it questions whether to attend the Memphis game.

Many of the faithful have become the faithless.

Who can blame them?

Marshall's fans expected at least eight wins during the regular season. Now, that's impossible. They expected to see progress in Year Three of head coach Doc Holliday's tenure. Now, they're wondering if the program's gear shift is stuck in neutral. Now, they're thinking basketball season is arriving in the nick of time.

The bandwagon isn't very crowded now because lots of fans are throwing in the towel on this season.

Why?

The most prevalent complaint among fans is the Herd played with no emotion, little intensity and sparse focus. They find it stupefying that the biggest game in Marshall's eight seasons as a member of Conference USA would denigrate into the worst loss in Edwards Stadium history.

I wonder, you wonder, everyone wonders how in the world Marshall could come out flat for a game of this significance.

It is an extremely valid question because even Marshall's players admit they came out flat.

Just ask them.

"You win some, you lose some," said Tommy Shuler, sophomore wideout. "They came out here and outplayed us and we came out flat.

"It was just one of those days where we came out flat. And it showed in our play. All three phases -- offense, defense and special teams."

Indeed, it did.

But why? How does that happen? How do otherwise competitive athletes come out flat for a game with make-or-break consequences?

"Coming out flat means not taking advantage of an opportunity," said Shuler. "A dropped ball, a fumble, a missed block, a missed tackle, not keying on special teams ... stuff like that. I just feel like we came out flat and we're a better team than that."

The solution?

"We have to come out and practice hard," said Shuler. "I feel like we shouldn't lose any more games. I'm putting that on my back. Every game, we can't take it for granted now. We have to play hard like it's our last game."

Tell it to the fans.

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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