BLOX Chuck Landon.jpg

Welcome to “Second Guess” Tuesday.

Here are the opinions du jour.

The state of West Virginia’s two FBS programs aren’t going in the same direction.

West Virginia University ended the regular season on a completely optimistic up note by rallying to defeat favored TCU, 20-17, in Fort Worth, Texas.

Marshall University, on the other hand, finished the regular season on a decidedly pessimistic down note, despite defeating FIU, 30-27, in overtime at Joan C. Edwards Stadium.

The negativity stemmed from the Thundering Herd needing Southern Miss to defeat Florida Atlantic, which would have propelled Marshall into Conference USA’s East Division championship game at 1:30 p.m. Saturday.

But the Golden Eagles lost and took Marshall down with them.

As a result, 2019 became the fifth consecutive season without either an East Division championship or C-USA championship.

Remember when Marshall’s mantra was “We play for championships”?

Not anymore.

In 2014, Marshall won the East Division title with an 11-1 record. Then, the Herd defeated Louisiana Tech, 26-23, in the C-USA championship game and eventually finished with a 13-1 record.

Then, the Herd finished with a 10-3 record in 2015, but a 3-3 road record kept it out of championship competition. Next, there was the meltdown season of 2016, culminating in a 3-9 overall record, including an 0-5 road record.

Marshall bounced back in 2017, posting a respectable 8-5 record, followed by a slightly better 9-4 record in 2018. Since there was some evidence of steady improvement, more was expected during the 2019 campaign.

Why, even the Conference USA media selected Marshall to win the East Division championship in a preseason poll.

But that optimism washed away in a soggy 24-13 loss at Charlotte, leaving Marshall “championship empty” for the fifth consecutive season.

Meanwhile in Morgantown, everything is upbeat about WVU’s football program. Besides the come-from-behind win at TCU, sending the Mountaineers into the offseason with tremendous momentum, WVU showed steady improvement during its final five games.

First, WVU played then-unbeaten Baylor to a standstill on the road before eventually losing 17-14. Next, the Mountaineers had arguably their worst performance of the season in a 38-17 home loss to Texas Tech.

But WVU bounced right back with a surprising 24-20 road win over nationally ranked Kansas State. A close 20-13 loss to Oklahoma State in WVU’s final home game followed and, then, the win over TCU ended the season.

So, WVU won two of its last five and was extremely competitive in two of the other games.

“It’s big for us in this first year of us building a program,” said first-year WVU coach Neal Brown.

Indeed.

WVU is clearly on the upswing.

But Marshall?

It feels like the football program is treading water. It’s successful with eight- or nine-win seasons, but consistently falls short of championships.

As a result, the community simply isn’t excited anymore.

It showed in the embarrassing attendance for MU’s overtime win vs. FIU. Sure, it was rainy and cold, but that’s not unusual for this time of year. What was unusual was a crowd of about 2,000 for the opening kickoff.

During the second half, the crowd dwindled to about 300. Then, the official attendance was announced at 18,000, which made everyone in the press box laugh out loud.

But this isn’t a laughing matter, folks.

Things have changed in Morgantown.

Now, they need to change in Huntington, too.

Chuck Landon is a sports columnist for The Herald-Dispatch. Contact him at clandon@herald-dispatch.com.

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