HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - As tough as it is to be a college football team on a 19-game losing streak, there's one team in America that would feel worse.
The opponent with which a 19-game losing streak ends.
As the Marshall University football team hosts Southern Mississippi at noon Saturday when on CBS Sports Network, it has more than one mission. Not only does the Herd (4-3, 2-1 Conference USA) want to rebound from a disappointing loss that dredged up bad memories of 2012, but it wants to avoid being the victim in the Golden Eagles' (0-7, 0-3 C-USA) quest to win their first game since Christmas Eve 2011.
"They're trying to find the answers to be more successful," Marshall defensive coordinator Chuck Heater said. "They're moving personnel around to get that done. You hope they just don't get it done on your day. Whatever discovery they make, it isn't on your time."
From what the Herd players say they've seen on film, Southern Miss' losing streak isn't for lack of talent. Marshall quarterback Rakeem Cato started watching film shortly after the Herd's last-second, 51-49 loss to Middle Tennessee last Thursday. By Monday, he was able to go through the lineup, jersey number by jersey number, and point out notable players.
"We know they have good players," Cato said. "They still have great players from my freshman year, when they won the (Conference USA) championship. They still have great players on that team who can produce at a high level. We can't look at anyone, just looking at their record."
Yet it's a vastly different atmosphere in Hattiesburg from that 2011 season, when the Golden Eagles stunned undefeated Houston in the C-USA title game and won the Hawaii Bowl over Nevada. Coach Larry Fedora left for North Carolina, and Southern Miss hired South Carolina assistant Ellis Johnson. Johnson used five quarterbacks, including freshman and four-star recruit Anthony Alford. Johnson also hired Alford's high school coach, Steve Buckley, and named him offensive coordinator.
The offense was one of the worst in college football and the Golden Eagles went 0-12. Johnson was fired, Alford transferred to Ole Miss and Buckley moved into a player personnel position.