HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - The sting still festers for Marshall University.
As winless Southern Miss arrives in Huntington for today's noon kickoff, the Thundering Herd haven't forgotten about their last encounter which resulted in a loss when Middle Tennessee State scored the game-winner on the last play of the game.
"Honestly, I'd really be disappointed if they weren't really hurt by that loss," Marshall coach Doc Holliday said. "We would have a lot more problems if they weren't hurt. We're not where we want to be and it is unacceptable to lose a game like that."
Despite the setback, Marshall (4-3, 2-1 Conference USA) remained in the hunt for a East Division championship. Southern Miss (0-7, 0-3), on the other hand, is seeking a win of any kind - something which has eluded the program since the beginning of last season when the Golden Eagles finished 0-12.
Points have been hard to come by for first-year coach Todd Monken, who was an offensive coordinator at Oklahoma State last year. The Golden Eagles are generating just 12.7 points per game and have suffered consecutive 55-14 defeats to East Carolina and North Texas the past two weeks.
"Really, Marshall is three tough losses from being 7-0 and being in a conversation as a BCS buster," said Monken, who is the third coach in four years at Southern Miss. "We've got a challenge ahead of us with a really good football team that has a really good quarterback and a good group of coaches.
"You watch them on film - that's a good football team."
Southern Miss leads the series 5-3, but Marshall has won the past two meetings. Last season in Hattiesburg, Miss., Marshall running back Kevin Grooms rushed for a career-high 119 yards as the Thundering Herd won 59-24.
This season, Grooms ranks third on the team in rushing with 225 yards. Teammate Essray Taliaferro leads Marshall with 502 yards rushing and five touchdowns.
"I talked with Kevin Grooms and told him that was probably the best game he played last year was against Southern Miss," Holliday said. "To me, Grooms is still not Grooms with the explosiveness and what he can do. He is getting closer.
"I told him, it's about time he starts looking like Grooms. Hopefully, this will be a great week for that to happen."
After plugging in senior Allan Bridgford as its starting quarterback for the first six games, Southern Miss turned to freshman Nick Mullens for his first career start last week against North Texas. Against the Mean Green, he completed 12-of-31 passes for 210 yards with one touchdown and three interceptions.
"Nick's fine," Monken said. "I thought he showed tremendous poise, leadership and toughness. He's not only smart, he's football smart. He gets it. It's like having a coach on the field."
Beginning today, Marshall's final five regular season games will take place in a span of 28 days.
"You just can't worry about it, but I'm not sure I've ever had five games in that span to be honest," Holliday said.