MCGILL: In Mascots and More, Bowl Opponents Have Plenty in Common
The Word on the Herd -- Dec. 6, 2017
By Chuck McGill
The similarities between Marshall and Colorado State run deep, right down to Marco the Bison and CAM the Ram.
In fact, once upon a time, Marshall considered “Rams” as a nickname for the school’s athletic teams, but students, faculty and alumni overwhelmingly voted for “Thundering Herd” over “Rams” and “Big Green.” Sam the Ram was a suggested nickname for the Marshall mascot, amusing in retrospect because in 1954 – 10 years before Marshall’s mascot vote – Colorado State made CAM the Ram – CAM is a nod to the school’s previous name, Colorado A&M – the official mascot. Marco is also a tribute to the school's previous name, Marshall College.
That means the rhyming monosyllabic names of the teams’ mascots – Sam and CAM – could’ve been roaming the field together next Saturday, Dec. 16, when Marshall meets Colorado State in the Gildan New Mexico Bowl in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
There are more likenesses than furry mascots, though.
Colorado State is 7-5. Marshall is 7-5.
Both teams won on Friday, Oct. 20, in conference road games. While Marshall was routing Middle Tennessee, Colorado State was beating New Mexico in Dreamstyle Stadium, which is the site of next weekend’s bowl game. Each of those wins meant bowl eligibility.
The Herd and the Rams had seasons go south from there. They each won only one more game after those late October weeknight victories on the road.
There are reasons for optimism, though, something Gildan New Mexico Bowl executive director Jeff Siembieda pointed out during Wednesday’s bowl press conference in Albuquerque. Siembieda, to MU coach Doc Holliday’s chagrin, remarked about how the Herd was “8 points away from a 10-win season.”
“Can I say that?” Siembieda said as he looked toward his left at Holliday.
Marshall lost by 5 points at Florida Atlantic, by 2 points at UTSA and by 1 point in the season finale against Southern Mississippi. Holliday only cares about the outcomes, but it matters to a bowl director because he is surveying potential.
Colorado State has plenty of that, too.
The Rams lost to Wyoming on a touchdown late in the fourth quarter. CSU fumbled at the 6-yard line in overtime, leading to a loss to Boise State. But the high-powered Rams are left to wonder what might have been, just like the Herd.
“These are two programs that are incredibly similar,” Siembieda said. “I think it’s going to be a game that adds to the lore of the Gildan New Mexico Bowl.”
Colorado State has one of the nation’s top offenses – ranked No. 10 nationally in yards per game (501.0). The Rams are in the 2,500/2,500 club this season – 2,533 rushing yards and 3,479 passing yards.
Meanwhile, Marshall has one of the stingiest defenses in the nation. The Herd is No. 17 in scoring defense, No. 19 in rush defense and No. 25 in total defense. Colorado State has only faced three defenses ranked higher than Marshall this season: Alabama, Wyoming and Boise State. The Rams are 0-3 in those games.
“We’ve got one of the best offenses in America,” Siembieda said, “and we’ve got one of the best defenses in America.”
Holliday spoke of his respect for Colorado State’s program and the team’s coach, Mike Bobo, who used to coach against Holliday in the Southeastern Conference. Bobo recalled those meetings all those years ago.
“I have a lot of respect for coach,” Bobo said. “I’ve known him for a long time. I met him on the recruiting trail. I have watched him from afar, the success he’s had there at Marshall.
“To come back after last season and get his team back in a bowl game shows what kind of coach he is. They were very close to another 10-win season. We have our work cut out for us.”
It seems to be a theme but, for Marshall, the feeling is the same.
Siembieda, who has been with the New Mexico Bowl since its creation in 2006, also gushed about Marshall’s academic performance, particular the student-athlete medal winners, and Holliday’s long-term success.
Marshall had a four-win improvement from 2016 to ’17, but Siembieda pointed to the program’s three-year run of success before that during Wednesday’s press conference.
“A Group of 5 school – not a Power 5 school – and in 2013 they were 10-4; 2014 they were 13-1; 2015 they were 10-3,” Siembieda said. “They won their bowl game each year.
“I want you to think about what it takes for a Group of 5 school to sustain that success. What (Holliday) has done there is amazing.”