HUNTINGTON, W.Va.—An offseason of building expectations culminates tonight as Marshall will actually take the field tonight at Joan C. Edwards Stadium. Herd fans have been looking forward to the start of the season, knowing The Herd has the potential to be a very, very good football team this year.
It seems fitting that The Herd would start a season with sky high expectations against one of its most disliked rivals from the Mid-American Conference days and Joan C. Edwards Stadium is certain to be rocking as the 7:00 p.m. kickoff approaches.
Tonight marks just the third time in the last seven years that Marshall is actually opening the season at Joan C. Edwards Stadium.
“It’s the first time since I’ve been here that we haven’t had to get on a bus or plane to go somewhere else and play. It’s nice to be able to open in front of your home fans in your own stadium. It’s a good deal. It’s the way it should be,” says coach Doc Holliday.
Openers haven’t been kind to The Herd recently but don’t forget the opponents. The previous three seasons have opened on the road at Ohio State (2010) and at West Virginia (2011,2012). The last time Marshall has won an opener was the last time it played that game at home, back in 2009, a 31-28 win over Southern Illinois.
Since Joan C. Edwards Stadium opened back in 1991, Marshall is 10-1 in season openers at the Joan. The lone loss on opening day at the Joan, was a 17-15 defeat at the hands of Troy.
The non-conference portion of the schedule has been one test after another that has left The Herd behind the eight-ball to start the season. Since 2006, non-conference opponents have included Kansas State, Tennessee, Wisconsin, the University of Miami, Ohio State and of course the series with West Virginia. Several years, Marshall was playing two or three BCS teams to start the season. Going 1-3 to start the year was sometimes considered a victory.
This year, the non-conference portion of the schedule is much more balanced. Marshall will be put to the test with a trip to Blacksburg and the rivalry with Ohio is always a tough game. But Marshall also faces the likes of Miami (OH) tonight and Gardner-Webb next week.
Miami leads the all-time series with The Herd 30-10-1. However, the Redhawks only beat Marshall twice after it rejoined the Mid-American Conference in 1997, 45-21 in 1997 and 45-6 in 2003. Both of those games were in Oxford. Miami has never won in Huntington since Marshall rejoined FCS in 1997.