For two decades Marshall posted winning records, played deep into the 1-AA playoffs, played for conference championships in the MAC and Bowl Championships. Thundering Herd football teams played a lot of football in December over those two decades.
When the program fell on to hard times, the bowl games disappeared and the team was turning in equipment after the 12th game of the season, one ingredient to Marshall’s success, which was overlooked, was also gone. Several weeks of practice and experience were lost.
How much of a difference does that make?
Think about this.
Over the course of his five years at Marshall, with the added practice time from conference championship games and bowl games, Chad Pennington got in an extra season’s worth of practice while the rest of his MAC opponents were at home, not practicing. Marshall teams of the 90’s and early 2000’s greatly benefited from the extra work they got in during the season and that is a major reason Marshall becoming bowl eligible this year is a big stride toward improving the team for the 2012 and 2013 seasons.
“It gives us the opportunity to go to a bowl but it also gives us a chance to get in another spring ball and practice those young guys,” said Holliday immediately after Saturday’s win over East Carolina.
Marshall could use the extra work too. The Herd will have just five seniors on the roster next season and young players such as quarterback Rakeem Cato need as much work and experience they can get leading up to next year.
One of the reasons that teams like southern Miss, Tulsa and Houston continue to dominate the conference is that those teams simply have more time in than others. Case Keenum and Austin Davis (quarterbacks for Houston and Southern Miss) have over a season’s worth of experience in just practicing for postseason games. Just think how much better Cato could be by his senior season with the additional coaching time. The same goes for the rest of the young players.
Reaching a bowl game is great for the Marshall program for the obvious reasons: exposure, recruiting, etc. However, the biggest impact going to a bowl game in 2011 may not be seen until 2012 or 2013.
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