HUNTINGTON, W.Va. -- Nine months for 10 days.
Marshall Coach Doc Holliday said that's the scenario for his Thundering Herd. After spring practice, summer workouts and 10 regular-season games, the Herd has two games in a 10-day span that will decide whether it goes bowling for a second straight year.
"You work your tail off for nine months for 10 days and two opportunities and that's what it's come to," Holliday said.
For the second game, a post-Thanksgiving visit to East Carolina, to mean anything, Marshall (4-6, 3-3 Conference USA) must win its home finale against Houston (4-6, 3-3) at noon Saturday (CSS telecast).
The Thundering Herd had a shot at some breathing room last week, but that disappeared after a lethargic first half at UAB that created a deficit Marshall couldn't overcome.
Marshall lost 38-31 to a Blazers team that amassed just two wins entering that game. Now the Herd is fighting for its postseason life with no margin for error.
Marshall does have history on its side. No team from the state of Texas has won in Huntington in eight tries. The Cougars are part of that statistic, losing at Joan C. Edwards Stadium in 2008. And there's another piece of history that should calm Marshall's nerves.
It was just last year when the Herd was in the identical position it's in now - needing to win out the regular season to reach a bowl game. Marshall won two straight, then won the Beef 'O' Brady's Bowl over Florida International.
"I think our kids understand what is at stake," Holliday said. "They have to go play extremely well. It is the same scenario we had a Memphis a year ago too. We found a way to go win last year and that is what this team has to go do."
One more break could go the Herd's way, as Houston's starting running back, redshirt junior Charles Sims, has been day-to-day after spraining his ankle two games ago against East Carolina and missing last week's loss to Tulsa.
Sims' teammates are hopeful he'll return. He tops Conference USA with 106.1 rushing yards per game and would be a potent weapon against a Marshall defense that is among the nation's worst at stopping the run. The Herd is 110th out of 120 Football Bowl Subdivision teams, allowing 221.6 yards per game.