By Gary Fauber
Not long ago, George O’Leary found himself in a similar situation as Marshall’s Mark Snyder.
In 2004, O’Leary took over a Central Florida program that was beyond struggling. In one span, the football team lost more than 30 players to various reasons, be it grades, discipline or plain apathy.
The result was a 17-game losing streak, which in 2005 was the longest in the country.
Snyder, of course, has not had to endure those type of off-field distractions. But the wins have proved hard to come by since he took over at Marshall three seasons ago as the Herd embarked in its first season as a member of Conference USA.
O’Leary has since righted the ship, guiding the Golden Knights to a C-USA East Division title in ’05 and in contention again this season. Snyder, meanwhile, continues to struggle with the Herd, whose win over Rice last week snapped an eight-game losing streak.
Marshall fans have grown increasingly restless, but O’Leary has a message for them.
“I would say that you have a good young coach,” the veteran coach said, giving an endorsement to Marshall’s third-year man.
O’Leary said he sees good things out of Marshall when he watches the Herd on film, but the points that have been viewed as excuses by some — including a multitude of injuries on defense — are valid points.
“You continue to turn the ball over and then you are constantly talking about finishing,” he said. “You need to get more playmakers. That’s the difference between winning and losing.”
The Knights are battling for another East title this year, but they did stumble to a 4-8 record last year.
“I don’t think we reacted well to the setback last year,” O’Leary said. “We worried too much about the play before.”
UCF (5-3, 3-1) hosts Marshall (1-7, 1-3) at 3:30 p.m. Saturday in the first homecoming game at the new Bright House Network Stadium.