HUNTINGTON, W.Va. -- Eight games, eight Conference USA opponents, zero breaks.
College football coaches and players often use a phrase after a tough loss, that all their goals are still ahead of them. For the Marshall University football team, that mostly rings true. The team's two-game losing skid to Ohio and Virginia Tech eliminated the Thundering Herd's slim hopes of being a BCS-buster.
As for winning C-USA's East division, winning a conference championship and the likely Liberty Bowl berth that comes with it, Marshall's season is a clean slate. Beginning with Saturday's 2 p.m. homecoming matchup versus the University of Texas at San Antonio, the 2-2 Herd has eight straight conference games to either preserve or end those hopes.
In four of the previous five seasons, the Herd has faced at least one non-conference opponent after its conference schedule has begun. Marshall Coach Doc Holliday has his own favorite phrase, that each game is important because it's the next one on the schedule. But he said playing a straight conference slate for the rest of this season offers at least a small benefit.
"It's kind of a second-season-type thing," Holliday said. "Our kids had the week off to catch their breath a little bit. Now we work."
Senior defensive lineman James Rouse agreed that the setup of this season's schedule validates Holliday's phrase. When it's nothing but C-USA games on the horizon, the Herd can't overlook anyone. Losing to this week's conference foe can be just as damaging as losing to one three weeks down the line.
"You can take every game as every game," Rouse said. "You don't have to think too much into the future. As long as you can handle what's going on this week, then everything else will play out."
This week's opponents, the 2-3 Roadrunners, are C-USA rookies, but haven't played like rookies so far. UTSA already collected a conference win over the University of Texas at El Paso. That's something only one other first-year conference team, Middle Tennessee, can say at this point in the season.
The Roadrunners' football history is short, but dynamic. In three seasons, UTSA has gone from the Football Championship Subdivision to the Western Athletic Conference to C-USA. Defensive end Arnold Blackmon grew up outside of Houston in Bellaire, Texas. The junior graduated from Bellaire High in 2011, the year UTSA played its inaugural game, and watched UTSA's infancy from three hours east. He's stunned the Roadrunners have come so far so quickly.