Florida International U

FIU needs one win for bowl eligibility heading into Marshall game

FIU Quarterback Alex McGough breaks a tackle during college football game, Saturday, Sept. 19, 2015 in Miami against the N.C. Central Eagles at the Ocean Bank Field at Florida International University.
FIU Quarterback Alex McGough breaks a tackle during college football game, Saturday, Sept. 19, 2015 in Miami against the N.C. Central Eagles at the Ocean Bank Field at Florida International University. Miami Herald

On Nov. 14, 1970, a Southern Airways DC-9 commercial jet crashed on approach to Huntington (W.Va) Tri-State Airport. All 75 people aboard died, including 18 sets of parents and several prominent Huntington citizens. Also on board: 37 Marshall football players, eight coaches and 25 boosters.

Saturday is the 45th anniversary of the disaster. About 40 Marshall players and head coach Doc Holliday will take part in an annual Nov. 14 ceremony at the Memorial Fountain. Then, they’ll don black jerseys for the first time, helmets adorned with a “75” sticker and head out for Senior Day.

Their opponent: FIU.

A week after playing a home game in front of a little more than 400 fans, the Panthers will head into the middle of an emotional electricity box of 40,000 fans. But maybe that’ll be a boon for them as much as Marshall. After all, nobody owns the flowing energy. It’s accessible to both teams.

“That’s the kind of atmosphere you want to play football in,” FIU redshirt junior center Michael Montero said. “There’s going to be a lot of fans. It’s going to be a challenge for everyone. Especially how big this game is for us, too. And they’re coming off a loss. We’ve got some momentum from our win.”

Neither the crowd nor the atmosphere changes need.

FIU needs one win, either this week against Marshall or next week at home against Western Kentucky, to be bowl eligible. After a triple overtime upset loss to Middle Tennessee State last weekend, Marshall needs the game to stay one game behind Western in Conference USA’s East Division. Western and Marshall meet the day after Thanksgiving in the regular season finale.

Montero couldn’t remember the last time he played in front of a packed house at FIU, aside from the 72-0 loss to Louisville in 2013. Well, the Columbus graduate did at FIU Stadium, but for Columbus vs. Belen and, as he noted he played defensive line back then so welcomed anything that might disrupt the offense.

“I think it’s not going to affect us,” Montero said. “One of the things we talked about this week is the crowd noise. So we’ve gone to a silent count this week.”

The Sun Belt, FIU’s previous conference, and Conference USA contain several schools with two-deck stadiums they might pack as Division I-AA (now FCS) powers. Now, as FBS programs in the Group of Five conferences – and with most games televised and the changing attendance habits of college students – they fill only half to three-fourths. Marshall averages 26,272, almost 12,000 short of capacity.

Saturday’s about as unaverage as it gets at Marshall.

“Obviously this is a big game, No. 1, because it's being played on the day of the crash, the 14th,” Marshall coach Doc Holliday said at his Tuesday media session. “Our kids understand that. Our players understand the history of what Marshall football is all about and they take it very seriously so they understand the importance of this game, not only to the football team, but our community, fan base and our school and what it means to everybody. It's also a big game because our goals and dreams are still out there.”

In road losses to Louisiana Tech and Massachusetts, FIU drew seven personal four or unsportsmanlike conduct penalties from Conference USA crews in games where FIU coach Ron Turner felt the Panthers let their emotions get out of control. The obvious question is what he’d tell his team this week.

“Just focus on our selves. We say it every week. Don’t get caught up in the crowd or the noise,” Turner said. “I’ve never been there, but I’ve been to West Virginia and they say it’s the same. The crowds will be on you, yelling inappropriate comments and all kinds of stuff. I tell them, ‘Hey, don’t worry about it. Focus on what you’re doing. Focus on the guys in that locker room. Don’t’ worry about any cheap shots, (stuff) talking or anything. Do your job and stay focused.

“We do that, we’re a good football team.”

Saturday: FIU at Marshall

Kickoff: 3:30 p.m.; Joan C. Edwards Stadium, Huntington, W.V.

TV/radio: SUN; WNMA 1210.

Favorite: Marshall by 11 1/2.

Records: FIU 5-5 (3-3 C-USA); Marshall 8-2 (5-1 C-USA).

Series: Marshall leads 3-0.

FIU injuries: Questionable — DE Fermin Silva (leg); TE Jonnu Smith (knee); S Niko Gonzalez (stinger). Out — TE Ya’Keem Griner (foot); LB Davison Colimon (pectoral); S Shermarke Spence (arm); RB Napoleon Maxwell (ACL); OL Jordan Budwig (shoulder).

Marshall injuries: Questionable — OL Nathaniel Devers (undisclosed); RB Tony Pittman (undisclosed); TE Emanuel Byrd (undisclosed). Out — RB Devon Johnson (back); OL Clint Van Horn (undisclosed).

PROBABLE FIU STARTERS

OFFENSE

DEFENSE

POS.

NO.

PLAYER

YR.

POS.

NO.

PLAYER

YR.

QB

12

Alex McGough

So.

DE

11

Denzell Perrine

Sr.

RB

1

Alex Gardner

So.

DT

74

Lars Koht

Sr.

WR

14

Dennis Turner

So.

DT

93

Imarjaye Albury

Jr.

WR

81

Thomas Owens

So.

DE

55

M. Wakefield

Sr.

TE

87

Jonnu Smith

Jr.

LB

53

Anthony Wint

So.

TE

11

Akil Dan-Fodio

Sr.

LB

34

Jephete Matilus

Sr.

LT

78

Dieugot Joseph

Jr.

LB

29

Vontarius West

So.

LG

69

Chris Miller

Fr.

CB

3

Richard Leonard

Sr.

C

64

M. Montero

Jr.

CB

7

J. McKinnon

Sr.

RG

79

Kai Absheer

Fr.

S

33

Niko Gonzalez

So.

RT

65

Daquane Wilkie

Fr.

S

31

Tyree Johnson

Fr.

PK

43

Austin Taylor

Jr.

P

6

Stone Wilson

Fr.

PROBABLE MARSHALL STARTERS

OFFENSE

DEFENSE

POS.

NO.

PLAYER

YR.

POS.

NO.

PLAYER

YR.

QB

14

Chase Litton

Fr.

DE

59

Gary Thompson

Jr.

RB

8

Remi Watson

Sr.

DT

93

Steve Dillon

Sr.

WR

3

Davonte Allen

Sr.

NT

94

Jarquez Samuel

Sr.

WR

4

D. McManus

So.

DE

91

Ryan Bee

Fr.

WR

19

Deandre Reaves

Sr.

LB

22

D.J. Hunter

Sr.

TE

85

Ryan Yurachek

So.

LB

51

D. Tyler

Jr.

LT

67

S. Jean-Felix

So.

LB

31

Evan McKelvey

Sr.

LG

71

S. Johansson

Sr.

CB

5

Keith Baxter

Sr.

C

54

Michael Selby

Jr.

CB

10

Corey Tindal

Jr.

RG

58

Jordan Dowrey

Fr.

S

17

Taj Letman

Sr.

RT

74

A.J. Addison

So.

S

21

Tiquan Lang

Jr.

PK

48

Nick Smith

So.

P

38

Tyler Williams

Sr.

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