By Gary Fauber
Assistant Sports Editor
Marshall still has not completed the 2013 season. That won’t happen for another 10 days, once the Thundering Herd wraps up its battle with Maryland in the Military Bowl.
Bowl games, as coaches often say — count Marshall’s Doc Holliday among them — are rewards for a successful season. As much as the Herd deserves the recognition for its 9-4 season and first-ever Conference USA East Division title, these two weeks can also go a long way toward the 2014 season.
With the extra practices afforded to bowl teams, the ramifications on the next season cannot be understated.
“If you count the week we had for the C-USA championship game and then about 11 or 12 practices before the bowl game, that’s just as many practices as you get for spring ball,” Holliday said Monday in a pre-bowl press conference. “We have about 16-to-17 practices before that bowl game, which is huge. Especially for the young offensive and defensive linemen because those are the ones you can really develop the most.”
Holliday said it is important to send the seniors on the team — he specifically mentioned running back Essray Taliaferro, defensive lineman Alex Bazzie and offensive linemen Alex Schooler and Garrett Scott — out as winners. At the same time, a strong performance against the Terrapins on Dec. 27 would be a springboard to spring ball and even the 2014 season.
“We’re going to take advantage of every minute we have to try to make this team better,” Holliday said.
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The Herd had its annual postseason banquet Sunday night, and several players were recognized for a wide range of accomplishments.
One of them was Beckley native Clint Van Horn, a redshirt sophomore who worked his way into the starting lineup at right tackle Oct. 12 at FAU. Van Horn was given the Chad Pennington Award.
The award obviously is named for Chad Pennington, who became Marshall’s most decorated quarterback and was a first-round draft pick of the New York Jets in 2000.
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Also honored at the banquet was redshirt senior defensive tackle James Rouse, who was voted the team’s Most Valuable Player by his teammates. He was also voted one of five captains for the bowl game, joining quarterback Rakeem Cato, tight end Gator Hoskins, center Chris Jasperse and cornerback Monterius Lovett.
The biggest news for Rouse, however, concerns next season. Rouse will return, granted a medical redshirt and, thus, a sixth season after a career that has been beset by injuries.
“He’s not only a great leader, but has been a great player,” Holliday said. “I can’t think of a guy that deserves it more than he does because the adversity he’s been through and how he fought through it.”
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