HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - If you blinked before Marshall's final home game of 2012, you might have missed the Senior Day ceremony.
That class of outgoing seniors numbered eight; the group that will accept pregame ovations Friday morning will be 16 strong.
At that 2012 Senior Day, the Thundering Herd fought to beat Houston to improve to 5-6 and keep its bowl hopes alive. This Friday at noon, the Herd takes on East Carolina in a battle for the East Division championship in Conference USA.
Coincidence? Not really.
"Anytime you talk about having a good football team, normally your seniors are playing their best football," said MU coach Doc Holliday. "You look across that board and you see [defensive tackle] Brandon Sparrow right now, playing the best football since he's been there. You see Monterius Lovett at corner, had a tremendous year.
"[Left tackle] Garrett Scott's played extremely well. [Alex] Schooler's playing his best football at offensive guard. Moo Moo [Devon Smith], the transfer [from Penn State], he's played very well for us. I'm sure I'm leaving somebody out there - [Alex] Bazzie, Gator [Hoskins], [Essray] Taliaferro.
"You go right down the list. That's a group of seniors, without doubt, are playing the best football of their career. When you're a successful football team, that happens, because number one, because they become great leaders, take ownership of the team. When your seniors play their best ball, normally you're team's good."
And so it is with Marshall (8-3, 6-1), which has eight wins for the first time since 2003, and will go for No. 9 at noon Friday at Joan C. Edward Stadium. Tied with the Herd in the division, ECU comes to Huntington 9-2 overall.
Marshall hasn't been 6-1 in the league, or any league, since 2002.
Of the seniors who have had big seasons, Hoskins and Taliaferro are the two most recognizable.
Hoskins has been the most decorated. He was the only player outside the "Power Five" conferences to be named a Mackey Award semifinalist (he was not one of the three finalists released Monday).
After his three-touchdown night at Florida International, Hoskins has scored 12 touchdowns out of 34 receptions, more than one in three. Some of his catches - the fourth-down TD pass at Florida Atlantic comes to mind - have been game-changers.