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Herd wary of letdown at FIU

MIAMI - Tonight, Marshall's football team faces a formidable foe.

No, not that one. As is well documented, Florida International has achieved global acclaim as one of the sorriest teams in major-college football.

Marshall's real opponent tonight is the monster known as complacency.

A few Thundering Herd players have confessed to that to some extent in road games such as the 24-23 win at Florida Atlantic and the 51-49 loss at Middle Tennessee. Those teams are new Conference USA members, and had a combined 5-8 record before welcoming the Herd.

Those two teams have proved to be a little better than advertised. FIU (1-9, 1-5 Conference USA) is one spot ahead of where it was picked, the East Division cellar, but still is probably worse than expected.

But the Herd (6-3, 5-1) can't go to sleep in the warm Florida night. For all the issues the Panthers have faced this year, continuing last week with a 33-10 loss to struggling Texas-El Paso, they certainly will be charged up from a visit by the Herd's small horde of Miami natives.

Older players on both sides certainly remember Marshall's 20-10 win over a much better FIU team in the 2011 bowl game at St. Petersburg, Fla., which ended with a sizable scuffle.

"It was a fun game. It was nasty, though," said MU defensive end Alex Bazzie. "I don't think a lot of people saw that, but as you were out there you could tell those FIU boys wanted a win just as bad as we wanted that win.

"Not only that, but all the Florida natives who were playing in that game, I think that's what made it so intense. Some of them know each other from high school, played against each other. And when they see each other at a different school, it's like, 'Oh, I remember what your high school did to my high school.' So they bring that grudge when they see each other on that college stage."

That grudge may be renewed when the teams meet at 6 p.m. at FIU Stadium. The game will air on Fox College Sports Central.

MU coach Doc Holliday has served up his standard warnings about opposing schools in talent-rich areas - remember, he is a recruiting authority in that part of the country. But the best thing Marshall can do is to keep honing its game and not worry as much about the opposition.

The offense has gained 600 total yards in each of the last three games and has rung up 221 points over the last four. The latter number could have swelled if not for that rash of fumbles a week-plus ago that nearly gave Tulsa the game.

The unit hasn't played the strongest competition in its three-game winning streak - how does a combined 4-26 grab you? - but it has showed off its versatility quite nicely.

Four times this team has run for 300-plus yards, shredding a drop-eight scheme by Alabama-Birmingham. Last week against a Tulsa team geared up to stop the run, Rakeem Cato threw for 456 yards.

In that game, outside receivers caught 13 passes. In the UAB game, none did. Slot receiver Tommy Shuler and the tight ends, led by Mackey Award semifinalist Gator Hoskins, are lethal targets that make defenses honest.

Defensively, the Herd defense has regained its pride, wounded nearly a month ago at Middle Tennessee. Now, the unit wants to play a dominating road game against a sputtering FIU offense that has been blanked three times.

"It would be good that we're mature enough, because we've not played the same on the road as we've played a home," said Chuck Heater, defensive coordinator. "We've done the things that give you problems on the road, where we weren't able to get off the field at times at Middle Tennessee, weren't able to make the [final] play against Middle Tennessee.

"We've got to keep growing as a team. Every week is another opportunity to kind of develop another aspect. So going on the road here and playing well, consistent and developing momentum going into the last week or so, that would be a good thing."

Tonight, the Herd will try to put it all together, physically and mentally. It must keep improving for the near future - we're talking about that winner-take-division game six days from now against East Carolina.

But first this Marshall team must dispose of FIU the way it has three lesser teams in its current winning streak.

"The message to the football team this week is every Sunday you pick up the paper [and see] somebody gets beat that shouldn't," Holliday said. "If you don't do a great job of preparation, if you don't go down there prepared to play, regardless of who you play, you're going to get beat."

Doug Smock at 304-348-5130, dougsmock@wvgazette.com or follow him at twitter.com/dougsmock.

 

 

 

 

No, not that one. As is well documented, Florida International has achieved global acclaim as one of the sorriest teams in major-college football.

Marshall's real opponent tonight is the monster known as complacency.

A few Thundering Herd players have confessed to that to some extent in road games such as the 24-23 win at Florida Atlantic and the 51-49 loss at Middle Tennessee. Those teams are new Conference USA members, and had a combined 5-8 record before welcoming the Herd.

Those two teams have proved to be a little better than advertised. FIU (1-9, 1-5 Conference USA) is one spot ahead of where it was picked, the East Division cellar, but still is probably worse than expected.

But the Herd (6-3, 5-1) can't go to sleep in the warm Florida night. For all the issues the Panthers have faced this year, continuing last week with a 33-10 loss to struggling Texas-El Paso, they certainly will be charged up from a visit by the Herd's small horde of Miami natives.

Older players on both sides certainly remember Marshall's 20-10 win over a much better FIU team in the 2011 bowl game at St. Petersburg, Fla., which ended with a sizable scuffle.

"It was a fun game. It was nasty, though," said MU defensive end Alex Bazzie. "I don't think a lot of people saw that, but as you were out there you could tell those FIU boys wanted a win just as bad as we wanted that win.

"Not only that, but all the Florida natives who were playing in that game, I think that's what made it so intense. Some of them know each other from high school, played against each other. And when they see each other at a different school, it's like, 'Oh, I remember what your high school did to my high school.' So they bring that grudge when they see each other on that college stage."

That grudge may be renewed when the teams meet at 6 p.m. at FIU Stadium. The game will air on Fox College Sports Central.

MU coach Doc Holliday has served up his standard warnings about opposing schools in talent-rich areas - remember, he is a recruiting authority in that part of the country. But the best thing Marshall can do is to keep honing its game and not worry as much about the opposition.

The offense has gained 600 total yards in each of the last three games and has rung up 221 points over the last four. The latter number could have swelled if not for that rash of fumbles a week-plus ago that nearly gave Tulsa the game.

The unit hasn't played the strongest competition in its three-game winning streak - how does a combined 4-26 grab you? - but it has showed off its versatility quite nicely.

Four times this team has run for 300-plus yards, shredding a drop-eight scheme by Alabama-Birmingham. Last week against a Tulsa team geared up to stop the run, Rakeem Cato threw for 456 yards.

In that game, outside receivers caught 13 passes. In the UAB game, none did. Slot receiver Tommy Shuler and the tight ends, led by Mackey Award semifinalist Gator Hoskins, are lethal targets that make defenses honest.

Defensively, the Herd defense has regained its pride, wounded nearly a month ago at Middle Tennessee. Now, the unit wants to play a dominating road game against a sputtering FIU offense that has been blanked three times.

"It would be good that we're mature enough, because we've not played the same on the road as we've played a home," said Chuck Heater, defensive coordinator. "We've done the things that give you problems on the road, where we weren't able to get off the field at times at Middle Tennessee, weren't able to make the [final] play against Middle Tennessee.

"We've got to keep growing as a team. Every week is another opportunity to kind of develop another aspect. So going on the road here and playing well, consistent and developing momentum going into the last week or so, that would be a good thing."

Tonight, the Herd will try to put it all together, physically and mentally. It must keep improving for the near future - we're talking about that winner-take-division game six days from now against East Carolina.

But first this Marshall team must dispose of FIU the way it has three lesser teams in its current winning streak.

"The message to the football team this week is every Sunday you pick up the paper [and see] somebody gets beat that shouldn't," Holliday said. "If you don't do a great job of preparation, if you don't go down there prepared to play, regardless of who you play, you're going to get beat."

Doug Smock at 304-348-5130, dougsmock@wvgazette.com or follow him at twitter.com/dougsmock.

 

 

 

 


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