Tyler Warner's Bowl Recap Diary|
Dec. 22, 2011
Perseverance, handling adversity, and family are a few ways to describe the 2011 Marshall Thundering Herd football team. At the beginning of the season, I remember reading three or four predictions on our upcoming season. Almost all of them had us winning only three games. My teammates and I couldn’t believe it. We have a defense with a ton of returning starters, a great punter (holder), and an offense with tons of playmakers. As a senior, these are not the kind of predictions you were hoping for. All 15 seniors had a huge task at the beginning of this season. Having 62 freshman and sophomores on the team, we had to take the young guys under our wing and teach them what Marshall football was all about. Coach Holliday has said since day 1, “I want to have a schedule like this.” After Tuesday’s outcome, I agree with him 100%. If we didn’t have the 15th toughest schedule in the country, I don’t know if we would have been able to handle this adversity and stay together as a team like we did.
I will give a quick run-through of our gameday. We had to wake up at 9:30 am, and meet downstairs for the team walk. The team walk is for the team to walk around the hotel and get woken up a little bit before breakfast and meetings start. After meetings, the coaches gave us until 2:30 pm to go to the room and relax. Once 2:30 rolled around, we had a special team walk-thru and then more meetings after that. Chapel with good, old Reverend Harvey was up next. The Rev spoke about Joshua from the Bible and “defining moments.” I was getting chills down my spine during the entire service. There was no question the team was ready to play once Rev was done with us. Pregame meal consisted of the usual buffet of spaghetti, chicken, green beans, and a baked potato, then we were off to the game.
The game had many “defining moments” like what Rev was talking about. He asked us if we were going to embrace this opportunity and make the most of it. By looking at the scoreboard at the end of the game, I can safely say that we did. Down 10-3 with a half minute left in the first half, quarterback Rakeem Cato threw a touchdown pass to wideout Aaron Dobson. This gave us momentum going into halftime, which was huge. When we were going into the fourth quarter, I wasn’t worried at all about our guys. Like I said before, we have been through so much adversity that I knew we would find a way to win. Zach Dunston (my Thursday lifting partner by the way), was able to get a blocked punt. Coach Holliday reminds us in every special teams meeting about the national statistic for blocked punts. If you block a punt, you have a 90% chance of winning the game. In our case, we blocked five punts and won all five of those games. People keep talking about “Beamer Ball”, why not talk about “Doc Ball?” How about our defense on Tuesday? Holding FIU to only 250 total yards and, in the time we needed it the most, the unit forced a T.Y. Hilton fumble. This gave us the ball back and an opportunity to extend the lead.
Sitting on the plane trying to digest everything that happened Tuesday night was difficult. Among the thoughts running through my head: Being the Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Bowl St. Petersburg Champions, getting a winning record, being the first C-USA team to win this bowl, being with family, finishing a career and trying to pick out what I am getting my mom for Christmas (don’t tell her I said this!). This is definitely a great way to finish out a career. I want to give out some thank yous. The first one goes to my team. The team never gave up, and will never give up. A special thanks goes to Kase Whitehead and Tyson Gale for being the best holder and long snapper a kicker could ask for. Kase never once had a bad hold the entire season (including practice). Thank you to the fans. Everyone who made the trip or watched it on ESPN, thank you for all of your support for the Herd. Thank you Coach Holliday. Thank you for the opportunity to play, and keeping our heads on straight when we needed it the most. Another thank you goes to friends and family. Thank you guys for all of your support , all the prayers, and the trips you made to come see us play. My final and most important thank you goes to God. God has truly gotten me through the difficult times during my career at Marshall and my entire life. Having faith in Him is the best choice I have ever made, and he has blessed me beyond belief. I am nothing without Him.
I am sure going to miss suiting up in the Kelly Green and White. The opportunity to play at Marshall as an in-state kid was a dream come true. Marshall gave me a chance to come in and help make a difference. I did the best I could and truly bleed Kelly Green after these four years. There are going to be bigger and better things coming for the Herd in the near future. Coach Holliday has us going in the right direction. Once again, thank you fans for everything. You guys have been great, and I am going to miss it. Go Herd!