By Bill Cornwell
For the second time this season, the Marshall Football has an extended rest.
Last week was already a scheduled off-week for Marshall (15th-ranked in the Associated Press and Coaches polls and 21st in the CFP Poll) due to Old Dominion’s decision to not play football this fall. The Herd (7-0, 4-0) also lost a November 21st home game with Charlotte due to Covid-19 issues with the 49ers program.
Rice (1-2, 1-2) comes to Huntington this weekend to face the Herd in game which kicks off at noon and will be shown on ESPN+
The Owls were originally scheduled to be in Huntington in early October, but Covid-19 issues in the Houston, Texas area caused Rice to shut down football practices during September.
So far this season, Rice has beaten Southern Miss (30-6) and lost to Middle Tennessee (40-34 in overtime) and North Texas (27-17). Games in November against UTSA and Louisiana Tech were postponed and a contest set for last week at home against UTEP was cancelled after a Covid-19 outbreak in the Miners program.
This will be the 8th meeting between the Herd and Owls and Marshall leads the all-time series 5-2, including a 3-0 mark in Huntington. Marshall beat the Owls in Houston last year by a 20-7 score.
Mike Bloomgren is in his third season as Rice’s head coach and he has a 6-22 record.
Players to watch for Rice include graduate quarterback Mike Collins, who has thrown for 802 yards and 10 touchdowns in his first 3 games for the Owls. Collins began his career at TCU. His top target is senior receiver Austin Trammell, who has six scoring grabs this year.
Defensively, Marshall will pay attention to hard-hitting Owls senior linebacker Blaze Aldridge, who had an 11-tackle game in the North Texas loss.
As for Marshall, Head Coach Doc Holliday is proud of the way his squad has avoided the Covid-19 troubles experienced by other programs. Marshall actually kept practicing last week, even though the team didn’t have a Thanksgiving week game.
Holliday thinks that togetherness has promoted good health.
“Teams that sent their kids home for Thanksgiving have had problems,” Holliday said. “Our kids understood they couldn’t do that or we would have had problems as well.
“That being said, they deserve a lot of credit. They deserve all the credit in the world and we’ve done something with them just about every day that we possibly could to try to keep them around us.”
Notes–Rice’s last win in the Marshall came in the 2013 Conference-USA Championship game, won by Rice by a 41-24 score. Marshall would win the league title the next year….the honors keep coming for Marshall redshirt freshman quarterback Grant Wells, as he has been named to the Davey O’Brien Award Quarterback Class of 2020. He is one of 35 players who have a chance to win the O’Brien Award, given annually to College Football’s top quarterback. Wells has completed 65.6% of his passes (126 of 192) for 1,674 yards, 16 touchdowns and four interceptions…Conference USA could possibly give Marshall another home game next week if the league decides to scrap the Herd’s scheduled December 11th game at FIU, instead sending Charlotte to play in Huntington on that same night. A decision on a possible game switch won’t come until this Saturday, according to C-USA officials.