Marshall to travel to Western Kentucky-First game in three weeks

Football has returned for the Marshall University Thundering Herd as it prepares to take on the Western Kentucky University Hilltoppers Saturday, Oct. 10.

It has been three weeks since the Herd (2-0, 0-0 Conference USA) has played in a game, but the team has taken the bye-weeks as a learning experience and advantage to focus on game plans and to get better.

All eyes are on the Hilltoppers (1-2, 1-0 C-USA) as this is one of the biggest rivalries in Conference USA.

The Hilltoppers are entering the contest after defeating conference foe Middle Tennessee State University Blue Raiders, 20-17.

This is the first road game for Marshall during the coronavirus era of college football.

Marshall head football coach Doc Holliday said captains for this week are Sheldon Evans and Cain Madden on offense and Tavante Beckett and Steven Gilmore on the defensive side.

“(We’ve) got a great challenge in Bowling Green,” Holliday said. “Most experts have them picked to win the league. We got to play every play. You never know what play is going to make a difference. Games when you play teams like this are tight, it’s critical.”

Redshirt senior offensive lineman Will Ulmer said the bye-weeks have served its purposes as being valuable.

“I think it’s beneficial,” Ulmer said. “It gives us more time to focus on the little things and the fundamentals. We’re focused on the game plan.”

The rivalry between the Herd and the Hilltoppers brings a different atmosphere feeling to both teams.

“There’s a certain energy that surrounds this game,” Ulmer said. “This game means a lot to both teams. It’s more high stakes. We have to prepare the same way. We may have an extra chip on our shoulders.”

Sophomore linebacker Eli Neal said regardless of rivalry and the Hilltoppers being a great team, it’s going to be a tough matchup. He said the rivalry is viewed as who is better on this side of the conference.

“They’re a great team and it’s a great rivalry,” Neal said. “They’re going to bring their best game and so are we. We both know on both sides what the rivalry means. As Coach Lambert, our defensive coordinator said, ‘You don’t win the game on Saturday. You win it on the days before.’ Every day is a game day for us.”

Redshirt junior running back Brenden Knox said he would put Marshall’s offensive line against anyone and that the team is doing their respective jobs.

“We have great love and confidence for our offensive line,” Knox said. “For conference and rivalry, it’s a different mentality. Everybody has a different job. I feel like we’ve really capitalized it across the board, guys stepping up and the hard work is showing up.”

This game will be the first rival matchup for Marshall’s redshirt freshman quarterback Grant Wells and is looking at this game as any other normal matchup.

“We’re just taking it week by week and looking at the positives,” Wells said. “It’s just another game to us. This might be my first time playing them, but they have an experienced defense. It does mean a little more that it is Western. Anytime you go into a game like this, you expect it to be a little chippy. We got to expect everything.”

Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m. EST./ 6:30 p.m. CST on Stadium at Houchens Industries-L. T. Smith Stadium on Saturday.

Taylor Huddleston can be contacted at [email protected]