The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

November 23, 2012

It’s do-or-die once again for Marshall

By Gary Fauber
Assistant Sports Editor

— While Christmas shoppers all across the country try to avoid jarring collisions in Walmart and Kohls, Marshall will try to turn this unofficial holiday into Green-and-White Friday.

A win today at East Carolina (2 p.m., CBS Sports Network) would be like escaping a crowded store with the last iPad. It would be the Thundering Herd’s sixth victory of the season, which equates to bowl eligibility.

Of course, for that to happen Marshall (5-6, 4-3 Conference USA) will have to win on the road in a venue that hasn’t exactly been kind. The Herd has lost all six games the teams have played at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium.

“It’s the same as last year, just in a different place,” Marshall coach Doc Holliday said.

Indeed, it was nearly one year ago to the day that the Herd needed a win over the Pirates to break even, finish with a winning record in league play and stamp a bowl berth. All three goals were met, but that 34-27 win was in Huntington, and the Herd needed overtime to do it.

Now Marshall faces the task of beating an ECU team that not only is already bowl eligible, but also has an outside shot of playing for the C-USA championship. A win over the Herd and a Central Florida loss to UAB on Saturday would have the Pirates (7-4, 6-1) meeting Tulsa Dec. 1.

And, it will be Senior Day in Greenville, N.C.

Holliday said his players are familiar with all the scenarios.

“We are going to prepare the same as always,” Holliday said. “We have an opportunity as a football team to do something, and that really helps us. The kids understand that if we go win, then something good is going to happen for them. I think that helps our preparation.”

Holliday, who will make his second appearance at ECU as Marshall’s head coach, knows how difficult it will be for his team.

“Going back through the years, when Marshall has gone down there, East Carolina has had some really good players,” he said. “You combine that with a great facility and great fanbase, it makes it tough. Teams with good players, at their house with it packed, is a tough situation to go into. They’ve won a bunch of games down there and have had a bunch of great players. Those things sure contribute to make it a tough place to play.”

One of the latest good players for the Pirates is junior running back Vintavious Cooper, who has 978 yards and five touchdowns on 177 carries this season.

Receiver Justin Hardy has been sophomore quarterback Shane Carden’s go-to player, but Hardy has been slowed by injury the last two weeks. He still has 67 catches for 875 yards and 10 touchdowns.

“Our guys are going to have to go there prepared to play and be ready to go,” Holliday said.

— E-mail: gfauber@