HUNTINGTON — Marshall got knocked backward by a tough Cincinnati team in a lopsided 52-14 loss Saturday at Joan C. Edwards Stadium.
By the time the Thundering Herd walked out of the locker room following the loss, Marshall players were focused forward.
Following the loss, the page turned from non-conference play. Now, staring them in the face is the eight-game stretch of Conference USA play to end the 2019 regular season.
The journey starts when the Herd hits the road to take on Middle Tennessee at 3:30 p.m. on Saturday at Johnny “Red” Floyd Stadium.
While the Herd sits at 2-2 overall, the most important mark to head coach Doc Holliday and the players is 0-0 — their starting mark in C-USA action.
Essentially, non-conference play was viewed as a tool to get better for conference action. And Saturday’s loss certainly highlighted many of the Herd’s shortcomings, a valuable lesson with conference play approaching.
Marshall’s players watched film of the Cincinnati loss Monday and went over some of the mistakes before getting in workouts early in the morning.
“I think it was pretty clear to everyone on the team that once we knocked out the film [Monday] morning after our team meeting, that we were going to put that one behind us and start focusing on conference play — basically, a new season,” Marshall linebacker Tyler Brown said. “We can’t be thinking about Cincinnati. We can’t be thinking about it through the week of preparation. We’ve got to put that one completely behind us and put all of our attention toward Middle.”
Holliday said after the game that the errors are correctable, and the players spoke on being eager to get back to work to correct the mistakes.
“One thing I know about this team is that nobody likes to lose,” Marshall quarterback Isaiah Green said. “When we do lose, we come back even harder the next week. We’ve got to continue to do that.”
Green said the team’s leadership takes on a bigger value this week for two reasons — keeping things together after a disappointing loss and going on the road for the first conference game.
“It’s always tough to go on the road, so going on the road for our first conference game, we’ve got to come with the right mentality,” Green said.
That mentality starts on Tuesday as the Herd hits the field in preparation for Saturday’s contest against a tough opponent in Middle Tennessee.
The Blue Raiders are 1-3, but their losses have come to a pair of nationally-ranked opponents in Michigan and Iowa, along with ACC foe Duke.
It won’t be an easy road test, by any means, for the Herd — especially considering Middle Tennessee’s defense shut down Marshall in the second half of a 34-24 win at Joan C. Edwards Stadium in 2018 before a touchdown late once the game was in hand.
While the players remember that contest, last season — or last week, even — doesn’t matter to the Herd.
All that matters is the goal at hand: a Conference USA title.
“Any time you get into your conference, every game you play is a championship game,” Holliday said.
Brown said that nothing that happened Saturday changes Marshall’s goals for the 2019 season.
“All of our goals are still on the table,” Brown said. “None of the goals we started the season with are out of reach. They are still all perfectly in reach. Conference USA, whoever shows up and plays week to week is going to be the winner.”