The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

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September 29, 2013

Herd focused on C-USA slate

Marshall has had a week to forget about its triple-overtime loss at Virginia Tech, which came a week after a turnover-plagued loss at rival Ohio.

The Thundering Herd is 2-2, and there are a lot of what-ifs surrounding that .500 start. The team is four turnovers and some conservative play calls in overtime against the Hokies away from being undefeated and giving credence to USA Today’s preseason assertion that it could at least be in the conversation as a potential BCS party crasher.

All of that is gone now, and the bye week that ended two days ago was used to drive that point home.

“That’s where we are, and the thing I told my players after the Virginia Tech game is that all of our goals and dreams are in place,” coach Doc Holliday said. “We’ve gone through a couple of rough stretches here. We have to become a better football team because of it and learn from it, but everything is out there for us.”

With its non-conference schedule out of the way, Marshall can now focus on winning the Conference USA East Division for the first time in its ninth season in the league.

The first step of that eight-game process comes Saturday, when new conference member UTSA visits Huntington. Marshall’s homecoming game will kick off at 2 p.m. and will be aired on Time Warner Cable.

The Roadrunners are 2-3 overall after last Saturday’s 59-28 loss to Houston. The Cougars led 31-28 before going nuts in the fourth quarter, when the defense shut out UTSA and closed the scoring with a 96-yard interception return by William Jackson with 46 seconds to play.

UTSA was going for a tie late in the third quarter, but Sean Ianno’s 29-yard field goal attempt was blocked and returned for a touchdown.

“The fourth quarter was a disaster,” UTSA coach Larry Coker said. “We just couldn’t hang with them.”

The Roadrunners are 1-0 in C-USA after a 32-13 win over UTEP on Sept. 21. They lost 56-35 at home to Oklahoma State and 38-13 at Arizona, and beat New Mexico 21-13 on the road.

“UTSA is a good football team. I’m not sitting here blowing smoke,” Holliday said. “It’s amazing what Larry Coker has done with that team in a three-year period. Go watch the film and you’ll like what you see. I know he does.”

Coker was hired in 2009 to build the program from the ground up. So far, he’s done as well as school officials could have hoped for.

UTSA was 4-6 in its inaugural season of 2011, then went 8-4 in its introduction to the Football Bowl Subdivision last year, its first and only in the Western Athletic Conference.

Coker coached Miami to the 2001 national championship, his first of six seasons with the Hurricanes. He led them to two BCS title game appearances, three BCS bowl games, six bowl games total and three straight Big East Conference championships.

“He’s a tremendous coach and has had success wherever he has been,” Holliday said. “I have great respect for him and you can tell just by watching that team that they are well coached.”

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