Marshall football: Rested Herd ready to regroup
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - A two-game losing streak is no way to ride into an off week, but that's the predicament the Marshall University football team found itself in following a double-overtime loss at Virginia Tech.
Yet, rather than spending that week wallowing in what could have been, the Thundering Herd players said they regrouped to get ready for an eight-game run of Conference USA opponents. That streak starts Saturday with conference newcomer University of Texas at San Antonio in a 2 p.m. homecoming game.
Herd Coach Doc Holliday said his team doesn't traffic in moral victories, but that doesn't mean the players couldn't extract positives from losses to Ohio and Virginia Tech. Junior receiver Tommy Shuler said the Tech game especially offered some light at the end of the tunnel.
"We played hard," he said. "We fought hard in the rain. We caught balls in the rain, made some runs in the rain. Cato showed he could run. We took all the positives out of that game and put them toward the next game."
The Herd spent the past week not just healing physically, but psychologically as well. Marshall's losses the last two games were made even tougher by how close they were. On top of the loss to the Hokies, the Herd fell at Ohio by three points. Redshirt junior center Chris Jasperse said what those losses became was motivation for the games ahead.
"It's always rough to come off two heartbreakers like we did," he said. "They were close games. That's really tough, but it makes you want to work that much harder.
"I think guys took it the right way," Jasperse added. "We don't look back on the games anymore. We looked forward after that Sunday and just get better at what we do."
Junior receiver Craig Wilkins said the team's elder statesmen did a good job through the week of ensuring the Herd is moving in the right direction. That's important, he said, with nothing but C-USA matchups for the rest of the season. And while UTSA is a first-year conference member, the 2-3 Roadrunners have a leg up on most of their fellow C-USA rookies.
UTSA and Middle Tennessee are the only two of the six first-year programs to earn conference wins so far. The Roadrunners beat the University of Texas at El Paso, and they feature Eric Soza, C-USA's third-most prolific quarterback behind East Carolina's Shane Carden and the Herd's Rakeem Cato.
"We have great leaders," Wilkins said. "Every game is a big game, especially going into a conference game. They stepped up and talked to the young guys and said, 'Let's roll. Let's get on the same page.'"
Jasperse said the most important message Marshall's veterans tried to send was that the Herd's own mistakes - including seven turnovers in those two losses - were what kept the team from some signature wins. Shuler said that if Marshall matched the effort it showed against Virginia Tech, the Herd should be on the right track. Jasperse said the team also needed to eliminate the errors that doomed it against the Hokies.
"We were just trying to say, 'Hey, guys, we're just beating ourselves right now,'" he said. "There are little things we need to fix up. If we take care of what we're doing, then the games will go fine. We've just got to tune up on our techniques.
"We can go out there and win every game if we don't beat ourselves."
Contact sportswriter Derek Redd at email@example.com or 304-348-1712. His blog is at blogs.dailymail.com/marshall. Follow him on Twitter @derekredd.