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A late, great friend coined a catch-phrase that has stood the test of time.

Tom Nozica, former Morris Harvey/University of Charleston baseball coach and athletic director, used to gaze out onto the diamond and say, “You’ve just gotta make the routine play.”

Except “Noz” would pronounce it, “Rooouuutine.”

Well, guess what?

That piece of athletic truism is alive, well and spilling out of the mouth of West Virginia University head football coach Neal Brown.

“We just didn’t make the routine plays,” said Brown during his weekly press conference, referring to WVU’s 34-17 loss at Kansas State. “It’s not the spectacular plays that win the game. It’s just routine plays. Guys open? Throw it to him. Ball is thrown to you? Catch it. You’ve got a one-on-one block? You block him.

“You can go back and watch that game and we just don’t make the routine plays we need to make.”

Brown was absolutely correct.

And he didn’t mince words.

“I’m not pleased — at all,” said Brown emphatically. “We’ve got two games left and it’s not too late to play good football. We’ve played good football in spots this year, but we haven’t been consistent. I promise you that doesn’t — — anybody off more than me. Our lack of consistency is extremely, extremely frustrating and that’s putting it in probably the mildest I can in a public setting.”

Again, it’s all about making the routine play. Can WVU do that at noon Saturday during a make-or-break game against Texas in Milan Puskar Stadium at Mountaineer Field?

Considering the Longhorns have lost five consecutive games, the answer is yes. WVU will win, 31-24.

Meanwhile, Marshall University travels to Charlotte to play a “rivalry game” against the 49ers at 3:30 p.m. Saturday. Yes, rivalry game. Just ask around.

“We’ve sort of had a chippy series with Charlotte over the years,” said Will Ulmer, MU’s sixth-year offensive tackle who has participated in every MU-Charlotte game in series history.

“That’s something I haven’t forgotten about and a lot of our leadership hasn’t forgotten about.”

Ah, so the plot thickens.

The series began in 2015 with MU winning, 34-10, at Charlotte. But the game will be remembered for honoring the late Phil Ratliff, who was an All-American and former assistant coach at Marshall and, then, Charlotte assistant at the time of his tragic death.

But, then, the 49ers stunned MU in 2016, defeating the Thundering Herd, 27-24, in Joan C. Edwards Stadium by shutting out Marshall during the second half.

That’s when the chippiness began.

MU bounced back with a rather nondescript 14-3 victory at Charlotte in 2017, but was more impressive in 2018 with a dominating 30-13 victory.

But, then, there was the fiasco.

The 2019 game was played during a downpour in Charlotte and MU quarterback Isaiah Green couldn’t throw a wet ball. Green completed only six of 17 passes for 86 yards with two interceptions, which led to a 24-13 victory for Charlotte.

Since the 2020 matchup was cancelled due to COVID-19, this will be the first MU-Charlotte matchup since that defeat.

Yet, the chippiness prevails.

Marshall will win, 38-27.

Chuck Landon is a sports columnist for The Herald-Dispatch. Contact him at

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