Dec. 8, 2013
By JACK BOGACZYK
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. – Marshall’s football team didn’t get what it wanted on Saturday afternoon … but the Military Bowl certainly did.
In the minutes after a 41-24 Conference USA Championship Game loss at Rice, the Herd accepted a berth in the Dec. 27 Military Bowl, a 2:30 p.m. postseason game that really wanted the Herd a year ago.
It didn’t work out. Military Bowl officials were in the pressbox and on the sidelines at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium in Greenville, N.C., as Marshall fell 65-59 in overtime to East Carolina, dashing Marshall bowl hopes with a 5-7 record.
ECU had bought plenty of Military tickets in 2010. Bowl officials figured Marshall would do the same. And besides, with the game moving to an ACC-AAC matchup in the rotation from 2014-19, the Military figured that 2013 might be its last shot at the Herd.
This time, the Military option was a backup for the Herd (9-4), which will meet Maryland (7-5), it was announced Sunday night. It will be the teams’ first meeting.
The game is moving from RFK Stadium to Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis, Md., where the home-state Terrapins last played in a 1965 loss to host Navy.
The Military Bowl knew Marshall had to lose if the bowl was to land coach Doc Holliday’s team. As the C-USA champion, Marshall would have headed to the Liberty Bowl, which took Rice (10-3) after the Owls’ victory.
The Military Bowl and Marshall are counting on seeing plenty of green – the folding kind – from Herd fans. And Marshall supporters will help the Herd program by making ticket purchases from the MU ticket office.
Well, C-USA’s bowl plan allows a school to retain the first $100,000 in bowl tickets it sells. At $77 per seat for the Military, that’s about 1,300 tickets. After that, the Herd can keep 50 percent of all revenue from additional ticket sales.
To use another ECU example, in 2009, the Pirates went to the then-PapaJohn’s.com Bowl in Birmingham, Ala. East Carolina sold 7,298 tickets, adding $146,000 to its coffers.
“I want to encourage all of our supporters to purchase their bowl tickets through our ticket office,” Marshall Athletic Director Mike Hamrick said Sunday. “It’s important to us, and doing that will benefit our program in a significant way.
“It not only benefits us in the short-term, but when bowls are looking at the Herd in the future, we will have those great numbers to use to enhance our opportunities.”
Marshall supporters can purchase Military Bowl tickets by visiting the ticket office window at the Cam Henderson Center, by visiting HerdZone.com and clicking on the Tickets tab, or by calling 1-800-THE-HERD (1-800-843-4373).
David Steele, Marshall’s associate athletic director for finance and operations, said when the Herd went to the Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Bowl two years ago, the program was able to retain $90.935 in ticket revenue.
The Military Bowl, with Marshall-Maryland, figures it could have a repeat of its ticket-buying interest of its 2010 game. In that one, the Terps topped ECU, 51-20, in a regional matchup that produced a bowl-record crowd of 38,794 at RFK.
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While the Herd’s first C-USA Championship appearance went sour, Holliday’s team has a chance to regroup with a postseason reward to go with the program’s first C-USA divisional title.
“We do have another game; that’s a good point,” said Holliday, who guided Marshall to a 20-10 Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Bowl victory over FIU two years ago. “You’d hate to finish a season like this (in a one-sided loss in a big game).
“And unfortunately we didn’t get a championship here, but we’ve got a bowl game to go play, and our kids really deserve to go play in that bowl game. We’ll go back to work at it.”
Holliday said the staff will give the Marshall players a few days off during an exam week that also will include some weight-room sessions, with bowl practices expected to open Friday.
“They need to get away for a couple of days,” he said of the Herd players. “They’ve been practicing four straight months, almost every day, just about every day, so they’ll get away for four or five days. Then well start working on the bowl.
“There’s no doubt the extra practice time you get when you go to a bowl helps. It’s all good.”
Holliday said that in one fashion, the loss at Rice was like the three regular-season losses the Herd suffered – and similar to the successful games, too.
“They don’t quit, they keep fighting,” the Marshall coach said. “We just didn’t make the plays we’ve made all year, in all phases. Physically, we didn’t play very well up front on either side of the ball and we didn’t execute the way we have.
“Give credit to Rice. That team did a tremendous job and they just beat us. They’re a heck of a football team. We came here, but we didn’t win a championship, so we’ve got to go back to work and go get better.”
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Herd quarterback Rakeem Cato said while a Military Bowl bid against Maryland is a reward for a good season, he views the Herd’s 11th bowl appearance as more of an opportunity to continue to build the program.
“Having a bowl means a lot,” Cato said after the game. “It’s a chance for us to go out continue to make a name for Marshall football. This (championship) game, I feel like our guys wanted it, really wanted it. But it just wasn’t there for us, against a good team.
“There’s no doubt we wanted it in my mind, those other guys just played a heck of a game, made more plays than us. But as a team, what you have to keep hoping is you keep learning.
“We can make a statement for the program in the bowl. We can still win 10 games. It’s been a while since (the Herd) has done that (11-2 in 2002). It’s another opportunity we’ve earned. We’ve got to lock in and look at film and go out and have fun and win the ball game.
“We got here to a championship game; we just didn’t get it done. This was an opportunity. We didn’t make the most of it. A bowl game is another opportunity for us to keep getting Marshall football back where it was.”
Cato praised Rice and said that although the Herd came up empty on its title bid, the message he would send to teammates is that a bowl trip is “another big game.”
“We made some plays, we just didn’t make enough,” he said. “They did (keep me running around a lot). That’s a heck of a ballclub, especially the secondary, the back end, they played a great game. As an offense, we have to score more points. Everybody didn’t play well as a team, but on offense, we need to put up more points than we did, a lot more.
“We’ll be back… you have to take a lot from this today. Go back, sit down, watch film, learn, go back and practice and get better.
“If you love the game and have passion for the game, when you take a loss, it’s going to hurt. It hurts right now, but if you love the game, you’ve got to come back ... keep going.”
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The Herd will arrive Dec. 23 in Washington, D.C., for the Dec. 27 game (ESPN telecast). All pre-bowl functions and practices will be held in Washington, with the teams heading to Maryland’s capital city, north on U.S. 50, on game day … Team functions include Christmas Eve visits to the Capitol and tours of the Washington Mall and national monuments on Christmas Day …
The Herd’s headquarters will be the DC Renaissance Hotel … The game will be the first bowl played at the home stadium of a U.S. service academy … The bowl will again provide $100,000 to the USO and have complimentary tickets for U.S. troops and their families …
Marshall will be seeking its second victory against an ACC team. The Herd is 1-9 against ACC members (at the time of kickoff), with the win a 13-10 triumph in the 1999 opener at Clemson to start a 13-0 season. Marshall is 0-4 against Virginia Tech since it joined the ACC, 0-3 against N.C. State and 0-1 versus Miami and North Carolina. Those are the only five ACC teams that Herd has played while they were ACC members. All of those games have been in ACC venues, except the Hokies’ 2011 victory at Joan C. Edwards Stadium.