Marshall still has a shot to win a Conference USA East Division title, but that season-long goal can only be accomplished Saturday if the Herd beats FIU on Senior Day in Huntington and Southern Miss later knocks off Florida Atlantic in Boca Raton, Florida. If those things occur, Marshall will win C-USA’sEast Division.
The Herd and Panthers face off Saturday at noon at Joan C. Edwards Stadium and the game is being nationally-televised on CBS Sports Network.
Marshall leads the all-time series 5-2, including a 28-25 win last year in Miami.
The teams are coming into the final week of the regular season in differing directions. Marshall lost on the road in the rain to a fired-up Charlotte team by a 24-13 last week while the Panthers were picking up possibly the biggest win in program history, a 30-24 win over in-city rival Miami at Marlins Park.
The celebration of the win over the Hurricanes as well as gaining bowl eligibility has been underway all week on the FIU campus and 3rd year Panthers Head Coach Butch Davis says he can’t say enough his team as the Miami victory followed a 37-7 pounding by FAU in the Panthers’ previous game.
“The players spilled their guts to get that win,” Davis said. “I kind of told people two weeks before the game that we’re going to find out a lot about our character and who we really are after a tough loss on the road to FAU.
“We came back to practice during our open date and that Tuesday practice was probably the best we’d had all year even going back to August. The kids were focused and competing they pushed themselves and I knew they’d spill their guts out in the Miami game.”
Marshall Head Coach Doc Holliday says Saturday will be a special day as 17 seniors play their final regular-season home game and his club still has a shot to be a champion.
“Those guys have given a lot of blood, sweat, and tears to this program,” Holliday said. “It’s important that we work really hard to send those guys out the right way. We still have a lot of football to play for. We have the opportunity to still win the East and we have to win this game. We have to have a great week of preparation.”
Marshall fans were not pleased as the Herd struggled on both sides of the ball in the Charlotte loss, recording no offensive touchdowns, throwing for less than 100 yards and looking vulnerable at times on defense. Holliday says that this week’s game will be a test of his ball club’s ability to rebound.
“It’s important to get everything back,” Holliday said. “As you all know, we did not play well enough offensively (on Saturday at Charlotte). It’s important that we get back to work there. It’s hard to be one-dimensional and we were a little bit. We have to get back to being able to do both (run and pass) and I’m sure our kids will work really hard to get that done. Number one, you have to take care of the ball. You can’t turn it over. At some point, you have to be able to throw and catch it.”
Much like when Marshall faces FAU, the games against FIU bring plenty of emotion as around a third of the Marshall team hails from Florida and most of those Marshall Floridians are from south Florida. Holliday admits the familiarity among players brings some heat to the game, plus it helps influence Sunshine State recruits who are considering coming north to Marshall.
“Our players know a lot of theirs, so they understand that they are very capable,” Holliday said. “Couch and those guys, they’re from down there. They know a lot of those guys and grew up playing against them in high school. They know who they are and what kind of players they are. We recruit that area heavily. Our kids enjoy playing against those guys. If you can have success against those teams, there’s no doubt that it will help you with recruiting.”
Marshall’s 17-member senior class features several key players for the Herd such as linebackers Omari Cobb and Tyler Brown, defensive end Marquis Couch, Center Levi Brown, tight end Armani Levias, defensive tackle Channing Hames, cornerbacks Chris Jackson and Kereon Merrell and kicker Justin Rohrwasser.
Holliday says the 2019 senior class leaves behind a solid legacy in Huntington.
“A lot of them have grown,” Holliday said. “They’re just all great kids. They’ve overcome a lot of adversity. I’m just proud about the way they’ve gone about their work. They are really good players who are getting the opportunity to play here on Saturday.”
Holliday is nearing the end of his tenth season as Marshall’s head coach and as we celebrate Thanksgiving this week, he says that he’s thankful that he’s doing what he wants to do “at home”.
“To have the opportunity to take these kids and mold them, have them walk out of here with a college degree and be successful … that’s what this is really all about,” Holliday said. “I’m just thankful to have that opportunity and be at a place like Marshall, where football is really, really important.”