HUNTINGTON — It doesn’t matter, when traveling with Herd sports in Conference USA, which ever cityin Texas the team lands, you can count on hotel shops, nearby convenience stores or T-shirt shops will always feature various items with the Lone Star State flag and the words, “Don’t Mess With Texas!”
Dallas, Houston, El Paso, it doesn’t matter. It’s always there.
It is something Texans not only sell, but it seems to be a motto the state sets it hearts and minds with, as Texas was a battleground for many nations and many wars before it became an independent nation and then part of the United States.
“Everything is bigger in Texas” is another statement the Texans are very proud of, be it the size of the state (biggest among the lower48), the size of its industries or the wealth of many millionaires.
It would seem to be everything West Virginia is not, except in the regards of both states having great pride in their states.
Texas is large -- mostly flat, unlike West Virginia -- and the states are full of things taken out of the ground that benefits all in Texas, much different than the history of the Mountain State, where robber barons took the coal or timber and wealth out of the state.
But if Marshall is going to right the football ship after a tough loss to Ohio last Saturday, the Herd is going to have to “mess” with Texas for the first time in school history.
The Herd is 0-for-Texas.
Not a single win in the Lone Star State for Marshall football teams, which in general have been less than impressive when crossing the Mississippi River to the other side of the nation.
The Herd is 2-15 all-time when playing on the western side of Old Man River — losses at Louisiana Tech, McNeese State in the Bayou State (and a win in the ’95 I-AA semifinals), at Mizzou, at UNLV, at Boise State and to UL-Monroe (then NE Louisiana) in Idaho in 1987, plus one big win at No. 6 Kansas State in ’03 — but 0-7 in Texas against Conference USA teams, 0-8 all-time.
Marshall is 0-2 at Houston, losing by seven in 2007, and by 45 in 2011; 0-2 in Dallas against SMU, losing by 10 in 2006 and by 14 in 2010; 0-2 at Texas-El Paso, losing by 28 in 2005 and by 31 in 2009; and 0-1 at this week’s opponent, Rice, losing by 25 points in Houston in 2008 … not to mention falling to Cincinnati in the Fort Worth Bowl at TCU in 2004.
Add in two losses at Tulsa in 2007 (-7) and in 2011 (-42), Marshall is 0-9 against the western-most schools in Conference USA.
And while the Herd is 0-3 against Tulsa in all games played, home or away, Marshall is 2-0 versus UTEP in Huntington, 2-0 vs. Rice, 2-0 vs. SMU and 1-0 against UH here as well, with the Golden Hurricane and the Cougars coming to Edwards Stadium this fall.
It’s not like the Herd hasn’t had success against the West (and as well at Tulane , the sixth member of that side of the league, just on the eastern side of the Mississippi in New Orleans, where MU is 1-0 and also beat the Green Wave in Mobile, after Hurricane Katrina). The team just hasn’twon at all on trips to Texas.
Most of the time, there are the usual concerns — long travel, flights for the team and the equipment truck taking much of the gear on Wednesday, for example this week, few friendly faces in the stands, all the things that can go wrong on team travel.
Most teams in the league are less successful when crossing from east to west, and even more when going west to east, losing one hour for the Central time zones and two hours from El Paso.
Marshall, however, has lost those league games in Texas by a combined 160 points in seven games.
That’s an average of 22 points game, falling in general by three touchdowns with only one game, at Houston in 2007, by single digits in a seven-point loss.
Add in the losses at Tulsa, it goes to minus-209 points and an average of 23 points per loss in the West. Or take away the Oklahoma scores (like any good Texan would) and add the bowl loss to Cincy in Fort Worth, it is a bit lower at minus-178 and a 21-point differential on average.
And don’t go to sleep on the Rice Owls, who have a very nice win at Kansas before running into a buzzsaw in the Techsters of LaTech on Saturday, falling 56-37.
Still, Rice is averaging 28.7 points per game in three contests in a similar 1-2 start (falling to No. 22 UCLA, 49-24; winning at Kansas, 25-24; and falling at Tech) like Marshall, averaging 36.7 points per game.
Both teams are struggling a bit on defense. The Herd is allowing 40 points per game and Rice 4, ninth and 11th in the league, respectively, and MU allows a league sixth in giving up 463 yards a game to opponents, while Rice is giving up 531.3 yards a game, tenth in league play.
Rice’s win at a Big 12 school is impressive, compared to Marshall wearing down a FCS school at home, as expected.
The difference is how the teams get up and down the field.
Rice is rushing for 204.3 yards per game, while Marshall is allowing 224.7 yards per game on the ground.
Marshall leads C-USA with 425 yards passing and 550.3 yards total offense a game, but Rice is fourth with a balanced 412.7 yards per game — 204.3 rushing, 208.4 yards passing.
Sounds a bit like the Bobcats of Ohio, who rushed for 199 yards and threw for 200 yards in the win over Marshall — and that game was in West Virginia, not Ohio or Texas.
If the Herd wins, the Ohio and WVU losses are games built upon for the important Conference USA games, Marshall would improve to 2-2, 1-0 in the league for at least two weeks as a final non- conference trip to Purdue looms right after the Rice game.
Did you know Marshall is 0-for-the Big Ten all-time?
More on that next week — right now the most important game is the next game, the conference opener and a chance to get that bigger than normal gorilla off the Herd’s back, deep in the heart of Texas.