Herd keeping game against VT in perspective
HUNTINGTON — Marshall’s matchup this week with Virginia Tech was not anticipated prior to the season.
Heck, until Friday evening, the Thundering Herd did not know if such a football game would even happen. The Herd, however, is doing a good job of keeping things in perspective as it prepares for its regular-season finale against the Hokies at noon on Saturday at Lane Stadium in Blacksburg, Virginia.
“Well, we went into the season expecting 12 and we got 12, one way or another,” Marshall senior offensive lineman Jordan Dowrey said. “It wasn’t the way you’d think it would happen, but it’s a 12th game so we’re all excited about it.”
Marshall’s contest against the Hokies came after an agreement between Marshall athletic director Mike Hamrick and Virginia Tech athletic director Whit Babcock entering into an understanding that, should Virginia Tech defeat Virginia to get to five wins, the teams would meet in a makeup game from the weekend of Sept. 15 when both teams lost games due to Hurricane Florence.
The reason? Virginia Tech has made a bowl game in each of the last 25 years and the Hokies, who are 5-6 overall after the overtime win over Virginia, need one more win to earn eligibility for a 26th straight bowl appearance.
As the game played out on Friday, it set up a difficult situation for Marshall’s players, who spoke of it on Monday.
On Friday afternoon, Marshall’s entire team tuned in to the Virginia Tech-Virginia game to see whether they would indeed face the Hokies, however, after that game ended, the team had to quickly flip its focus back to FIU, whom the Herd defeated, 28-25, on Saturday afternoon in Miami.
“I felt like it was kind of a distraction watching the game because we didn’t know if we were going to play them or not,” Marshall safety Brandon Drayton said. “When we found out we were playing them, it was like, ‘Okay, we’ve got to beat FIU, then play these guys.’”
The contest was not only exciting for those in attendance at Lane Stadium, but also those within Marshall’s hotel, where players watched intently every snap in the 34-31 overtime thriller.
“The whole team was tuned in just watching to see if we were going to be able to have the extra game,” Marshall safety Malik Gant said. “It was an exciting night, basically, just watching the game coming down to the last snaps and the last plays.”
This week’s matchup is interesting in that Marshall’s conference season is over and so the game will be played on the date that the Conference USA Championship was slated to be played. Also, with the Herd already at eight wins on the season, Marshall is firmly entrenched within the college football bowl landscape, with their destination becoming known by Sunday afternoon.
The same cannot be said for Virginia Tech, which has its long bowl streak at risk with the contest. A win and they are in. A loss ends their streak and their season. Even though the scenarios are different for both teams, Marshall’s players spoke of having plenty of reason to look forward to the contest. For the seniors, it is another game as their careers wind down.
“We only have a limited amount of games, so I feel like that’s very encouraging,” Marshall defensive tackle Malik Thompson said. “That’s what I want, personally.”
For everyone within the program, it’s also a chance to go against a Power 5 opponent in the Hokies.
“It’s very important to show people that we can compete with anybody. ...” Marshall quarterback Isaiah Green said. “No matter if they are Power 5 or Group of Five, we don’t feel like it matters. If we play our best ball, then we can compete with anybody.”