HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — After falling short of the Conference-USA title and dropping four of its last five games, Marshall seeks redemption in the New Mexico Bowl.
The Herd (-7-5) are heading to Albuquerque for the Dec. 16 game against Colorado State (7-5), a team that also faded late.
“Obviously the season didn’t end how we wanted it to,” said senior defensive lineman Blake Keller. “Going to a bowl gives you one last chance to go out and compete in a nationally televised game and show everyone we can come out on top.”
With a 4-0 bowl record under coach Doc Holliday, Marshall’s all-time bowl mark stands at 10-2.
“We are excited to be where we are going, I think it is a tribute to Marshall’s history to be the first bowl game to start the bowl season off,” said Holliday. “We get the opportunity to play an excellent football team on a national stage, I know the coaches and players are excited about it.”
Colorado State’s high-powered offense is led by senior quarterback Nick Stevens, who completed 63 percent of his passes while throwing 27 touchdowns and seven interceptions. Michael Gallup is amopng the nation’s top receivers.
“They have an offense that has averaged over 500 yards per game,” said Holliday. “Their quarterback is sensational and they have a Biletnikoff receiver, they are going to be a great challenge for us.”
Gallup caught 94 passes for 1,350 yards and seven touchdowns. Tight end Dalton Fackrell has also proved to be a red zone weapon in the passing game this season, with six of his 20 catches going for a touchdown.
Marshall has never faced the Rams or played in New Mexico.
“There probably isn’t one person on our team who has been to New Mexico,” Holliday said. “We normally practice the day we leave, but we are going to go ahead and wait and get two practices in out there.”
Center Levi Brown said the team was hoping to go somewhere different than the Herd’s often-repeated trips to Florida.
“Living in Georgia, I can go to Florida whenever I want,” Brown said. “It is different being able to go somewhere I usually wouldn’t be going unless it was serious business.”
After three of the Herd’s previous four bowl trips were to St. Petersburg or Boca Raton, tight end Ryan Yuracheck was pleasantly surprised at the destination.
“Probably 10 percent of people could have predicted we were going to be in New Mexico, but that’s what makes it exciting,” Yuracheck said. “Everyone is always in a consensus around here that we are going to Florida.
“From a player standpoint, to be able to play an opponent from a conference you thought you would never play, it gets you excited to play football.”
Linebacker Artis Johnson said he googled Albuquerque and Colorado State as soon as the bowl pairing was announced.
“Marshall has never been out West,” said Johnson. “We are going to go compete against a team we know nothing about, but I am feeling pretty confident about competing against them.
“I went and looked at their record, it isn’t going to be a pushover game. They played some great teams.”
The Rams faced No. 25 Boise State and fourth-ranked Alabama over the course of their season.
Holliday said he expects to have starting receivers Marcel Williams and Tyre Brady back after both missed the final two games of the season. … Safety Malik Gant, the team’s second-leading tackler, is also expected to return after being a scratch for the season finale.
—By Troy Alexander