This is always a special game for Marshall University’s football program.
It is circled in black every season.
This year is no different. If anything it’s actually more impactful. Besides facing Louisiana Tech at 7 p.m. Friday in Joan C. Edwards Stadium the day after the fountain ceremony commemorating the 49th anniversary of the horrific Marshall plane crash that killed 75 people, there are other ramifications for the Thundering Herd.
A win over the Bulldogs would allow Marshall to remain in control of its destiny in Conference USA’s East Division. A loss? That easily could cost MU the divisional title.
So, there’s a lot at stake — physically, mentally and emotionally. But it’s more than merely that. Look at this unusual scenario:
Friday night lights.
Day after the crash anniversary.
It all combines to elevate this game onto a bigger stage than usual.
“It is bigger,” said Marshall quarterback Isaiah Green. “First of all, it’s the ‘75 Week.’ This is what the whole team dreamed of as kids ... playing on national television in front of the whole world. Add that on top of fighting to control our destiny to go to the championship.
“So, it is a bigger stage this week. People just have to step up to the plate.”
One of those people is star running Brenden Knox. The highly charged emotions that surround this game aren’t lost on him.
“It definitely means a lot to a lot of people,” said the sophomore. “It’s a game that you would hope you could bring it home, especially for the people who were affected by this. It means a little more.”
Indeed, it does.
That’s what makes this such a tall task. Yet, it also is a tricky situation. Emotion alone isn’t the answer. It’s got to be a combination of factors with emotion at the core, yet kept under control.
Can Marshall pull that off?
I’m not sure.
But I am sure of one thing. There’s no way I would pick against Marshall the day after the crash anniversary. The Herd will win 27-24.
Now, for the WVU-Kansas State game.
The Mountaineers can’t catch a break. Besides being 3-6 and riding a five-game losing streak, now WVU has to take on Kansas State (6-3), No. 24 in the College Football Playoff rankings, at 3:30 p.m. Saturday in Bill Snyder Family Stadium at Manhattan, Kansas.
What a chore.
Particularly after getting pounded a lot worse than the score indicated during a 38-17 loss to Texas Tech last week in Milan Puskar Stadium.
What first-year coach Neal Brown certainly must be hoping is that it can’t get any worse.
“I think when you play as poorly as we did defensively,” said Brown, “you have to look at all things. We played as bad of a first half as you can play. We gave up touchdowns the first five drives of the game. I don’t know if I have ever been a part of a game that has been like that.
“I would say everybody and everyone is under evaluation.”
That’s a tough scenario heading on the road to play a school that upset Oklahoma and has surprised people under first-year head coach Chris Klieman.
“I don’t know if they are playing over expectations,” said Brown. “I know this: They have played really well as a team in all three phases.”
That’s why K-State will defeat WVU 38-24.
Season record: 14-4