HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - Marshall needs something magical to happen on Saturday.
Not only does the Thundering Herd need a victory against East Carolina to become bowl eligible, but it also requires help from Memphis in its game at Southern Miss that same afternoon in order to secure an East Division championship in Conference USA.
"At Marshall, we play for championships and we still are because we are alive for the conference title Saturday," Marshall coach Doc Holliday said. "But as a coach and this staff, we will not be satisfied until we win a championship. Our goals are to win the conference then go to and win a bowl game. We want to achieve all of those goals."
Marshall, which is still seeking its first winning streak of the season, enters its regular-season finale at 5-6 and 4-3 in C-USA. East Carolina also is in the same boat at 5-6 and 4-3. Even if the Pirates win and Southern Miss loses, Southern Miss owns the head-to-head tiebreaker after defeating ECU 48-28 on Nov. 5.
Marshall's 26-20 win against Southern Miss the second week of the regular season is a major determining factor should the Golden Eagles get upset at home versus Memphis.
"We know Marshall has the same goals in sight that we do," East Carolina coach Ruffin McNeill said. "They're also playing for a bowl game. It'll be a battle."
Herd Game Time
- ?East Carolina (5-6, 4-3
C-USA) at Marshall (5-6, 4-3),
at 3:30 p.m.
Marshall's primary concern against East Carolina is defending quarterback Dominique Davis, who has thrown for 2,940 yards and 22 touchdowns. He has also rushed for five TDs.
Davis' main targets are Lance Lewis (60 catches for 600 yards and eight TDs) and Justin Hardy (57 catches for 566 yards and six TDs).
"With East Carolina, it all starts with Dominique Davis - their offense is centered around him," Holliday said. "You have to tackle because they throw the short routes. You have to get the receivers on the ground, and when you get pressure on him you need to make sure you cover up the hot routes."
East Carolina leads the series against Marshall, 9-3. The Pirates have won the last three meetings, including 37-10 victory last year in Greenville, N.C. In that game, Davis threw for 208 yards and two touchdowns.
"Marshall will spread the football," McNeill said. "They've used two quarterbacks in A.J. Graham and Rakeem Cato, but Graham had season-ending surgery Saturday."
Cato will be making his eighth start of the season. The freshman has thrown for 1,492 yards and 11 touchdowns with 10 interceptions. Aaron Dobson has been the most dangerous target after catching 38 passes for 477 yards and eight touchdowns.
At running back, the Herd feature Tron Martinez (560 yards rushing) and Travon Van (456 yards).
"Travon is explosive and has speed," McNeill said. "After watching him (on film), we have to make sure we're aware of him and have great gap integrity."