HUNTINGTON — Two words could adequately sum up Monday’s interview session with Marshall football players to start FIU week: reaction and reflection.
Each were equally visible on Monday — smiles, not so much — as the players got set to begin preparation for their home finale versus the Golden Panthers at noon Saturday.
“Just taking it one day at a time,” Marshall defensive end Marquis Couch said.
It is the seniors, who may play their final game at Joan C. Edwards Stadium on Saturday, who are reflecting on their careers.
“You’ve been here for so long, playing in front of all these people with the same guys around our locker room,” Couch said. “It’s coming down to the end, one last home game, to feel that feeling. And it’s just something you’ve got to grasp, take it in and hold it for as long as you can.”
Had the Thundering Herd defeated Charlotte last Saturday, it would have been in position to host one more game at Joan C. Edwards Stadium, next week’s Conference USA championship. Yet Saturday’s loss has hindered the Herd in that regard. Now, Marshall needs to beat FIU and have Southern Miss beat Florida Atlantic to win the East Division.
If Southern Miss beats FAU, Louisiana Tech tops UTSA and North Texas upsets UAB, the Herd would host Louisiana Tech in the C-USA Championship.
That would be based on a tiebreaker where Louisiana Tech and Southern Miss are tied in conference play, giving the West Division title to the Bulldogs, who beat the Golden Eagles in the regular season. Marshall would then host based on the head-to-head win over Louisiana Tech.
That difficult scenario is where the “reaction” portion comes into play. Marshall players were visibly and audibly still shook by Saturday’s 24-13 loss to Charlotte that took control of the division out of their hands.
They were trying to focus forward Monday and not let the disappointment of that loss affect their preparation for FIU, who is coming off a historic win over Miami. It is the team’s first win over a Power 5 program in its history.
With FIU riding high and Marshall still having the possibility of a Conference USA East Division title, the Herd seniors said their own leadership would be critical to maintain focus.
The phrase of Monday for Marshall’s players was “locked in.”
“They’re going to be a force reckon with,” Marshall linebacker Tyler Brown said. “We’re going to have to be on top of our stuff this week. We really have to lock in on these guys.
“Charlotte is over with. That’s out of our hands now. We don’t need to think about conference. We don’t need to think about FAU or Southern Miss. We just need to lock in on FIU. We’ve got to find a way to beat this bunch. Hopefully, things play in our favor after that, but without beating these guys — we have to beat these guys.”
While the Charlotte loss is in the past, part of the frustration of the loss is not — something players admitted on Monday.
Marshall running back Brenden Knox said the key is using that negative and flipping it into a positive.
“This is definitely an emotional week — especially coming off the week that we did last week,” Knox said. “It’s just all the more that’s built up into this week with this group of guys that you just want to finish out strong and go hard for.
“Knowing that you are better than that and getting back to how that you know you can play is the biggest thing for this week.”