How does a football team not suffer a letdown against a winless opponent?
That’s a very good question.
Since Marshall University (5-3 overall, 3-1 Conference USA) plays Rice (0-8, 0-4) at 3:30 p.m. Saturday at Rice Stadium in Houston, it seemed like the perfect time to ask.
So tell us, MU players, do you know what Rice’s record is?
“Don’t know, don’t care,” said Armani Levias.
Since Marshall’s star tight end wasn’t familiar with Rice’s record, it didn’t seem right to reveal it. So, let’s just ask how MU avoids a letdown.
“Whatever their record is,” said Levias, “treat it like it’s better than that ... like they are better than us. Just continue to go to work each and every day like we’ve been doing and trying to win the day. Focus on the little things and we’re going to get the results that we like.”
So, it’s sort of like playing mind games with yourself.
“Yeah, uh-huh,” said Levias, who caught 10 passes for 77 yards and a touchdown in a win over Western Kentucky a week ago. “We’re not looking past anybody.
“Doc [Marshall head coach Doc Holliday] preaches each and every week a good team loses to a not-so-good team. So, we’re not looking past them [Rice] regardless of their record. We just want to continue to do the little things and prepare to win.”
Standout running back Brenden Knox also is a proponent of the “mind games” school of thought.
“You kind of get it out of your head that you know they are 0-8,” said Knox. “Kind of get it out of your head that there’s not going to be a lot of people in the stands as you keep on hearing. Just get all of that out of your head. It’s all just a mind game.
“Once you look on film and you see them, they’re a stout group of guys, in my opinion, and from everybody else who has seen the film. So, you know you’re going to get a hard-fought game.
“Don’t let the record speak for itself. Just get that out of your head and execute and you’ll like where you are at the end of the day.”
Besides the mind games, left guard Alex Mollette embraces another mental gimmick.
“Since I’ve been here, day one,” said the redshirt junior, “Doc has done a good job of making sure that it’s easy for us. We just need to make sure that we always — no matter who the opponent is — they’re a faceless opponent. We’re just working on ourselves and doing what we need to do.”
Ah, “faceless opponent.”
What an intriguing concept.
Although Isaiah Green is acquainted with Rice’s record, he also espouses the selective amnesia.
“We’ve just got to erase any thoughts of them being 0-8,” said MU’s starting quarterback, “and just treat them like we’re playing the best team in our conference. We’ve got to be extremely focused and not have the mentality of ‘they’re not good ... they have no wins ...’ nothing like that. We have to erase all of that out of our minds and have extreme focus and lock in greater than we have before.
“Every week has been a championship week for us. We just have to control what we can control.”
Good philosophies, one and all.
That’s why MU will beat Rice 24-13.
Season record: 13-3