HUNTINGTON — Three and a half hours.
Two hundred and 10 minutes.
Two thousand and four hundred seconds.
It was here to that eternity for Marshall University’s players, coaches and support staff as they waited, waited and, then, waited some more for the Southern Miss at Florida Atlantic game to end.
Since Marshall’s 30-27 overtime win against FIU Saturday at Joan C. Edwards Stadium featured a noon kickoff and ended at 3:34 p.m., it meant the Thundering Herd was finishing almost exactly when Southern Miss vs. FAU was just beginning at 3:30 p.m. in Boca Raton, Florida on the NFL Network.
It was like dangling over a sword for nearly four hours.
That’s because the Southern Miss-FAU game was the key to Marshall’s Conference USA East Division fate. If the Golden Eagles defeated the Owls, it would hand Marshall the East Division championship.
The Herd’s championship predictions and expectations would evaporate into the rainy mist. That would be a bitter pill for Marshall and the Herd faithful to follow considering the Thundering Herd was predicted to win the East Division title by a preseason media poll.
Yet that’s the corner into which the Herd painted itself by not showing up during a 24-13 loss to Charlotte a weekend ago. The Herd lost control of its destiny and ended up surrendering it to Southern Miss.
That was the situation Marshall found itself in after rallying to defeat FIU before a few thousand drenched and chilled fans in “The Joan.”
Was there trepidation? Was the Herd leery of what fate might have in store? Was Marshall holding its collective breath?
Interestingly enough, the answer was no, no, no.
Instead, Marshall’s players and coaches were almost giddy about the possibility of watching Southern Miss extend a helping hand toward winning C-USA’s East Division championship.
“I’m going to my apartment,” said redshirt sophomore quarterback Isaiah Green after throwing a touchdown pass and running for a TD, “and turn the NFL Network on.”
Green couldn’t quit smiling as he hurried from the interview room in the Shewey Building.
Next up, Brenden Knox.
Despite just having carried 33 times for 146 yards and the game-winning touchdown in overtime, the redshirt sophomore looked fresh with anticipation.
So, where was he going to watch the Southern Miss-FAU game?
“My house, with teammates, wherever,” said Knox as he broke a few media tackles and escaped.
Perhaps, the best reply came by senior linebacker Tyler Brown.
“I’m going to Creekside [golf course] in Lavalette to watch,” he said.
Then there was the enticingly vague answer by veteran Marshall head coach Doc Holliday to my question during his press conference.
Hey, Doc, what are you going to do for the next three and half hours?
“I probably can’t tell you what I’m going to do,” he replied with a mysterious smile.
That’s where I left Marshall alone with its fate.
And what an unpleasant fate it was. Despite Marshall’s best intentions and unbridled optimism, Southern Miss wasn’t able to come through for MU. Instead, Florida Atlantic defeated the Golden Eagles handily, 34-17, Saturday.
The adrenalin burned off. The enthusiasm of an overtime win vs. FIU gave way to the despair of falling short of hopes, dreams and expectations.
It meant Marshall finished without a Conference USA championship of any kind for the fifth consecutive football season.
Instead, all MU could do was watch.