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What a way to start the season

September 2, 2011
EDGAR?KELLEY - IN?THE?BOX , The Inter-Mountain

There's no better way for football fans from the Mountain State to kick off the college football season than with the annual Friends of Coal Bowl.

No matter where you call home, odds are that you're either a West Virginia fan or a supporter of Marshall if you're a native to the state.

And there's definitely no dead air time when it comes to the in-state rivalry. Fans of their respective teams are continuously jawing at one another year round, no matter if it's football season or not.

If you're a West Virginia fan, like Elkins resident Willie Riddle, the thought of Marshall claiming that first-ever win over the Mountaineers is nightmarish.

"West Virginia fans would definitely never hear the end of it if Marshall won," Riddle said. "I would love West Virginia to have a good season, but if Marshall won, it would really put a damper on everything right from the start."

If the odds makers are correct in listing the Mountaineers as a 21-point favorite, it appears that West Virginia is well on its way to running the series record to a perfect 11-0.

But if you're a Thundering Herd fan there's always hope. Especially after nearly upsetting the Mountaineers last season in Huntington.

WVU?trailed 21-6 in the fourth quarter of the contest, before scoring 15 points in the final 8:28 to force overtime and eventually win.

"We had that game last year," former Marshall player Floyd Thomas said. "It was real tough watching the fourth quarter of that game."

Thomas, an Elkins resident who graduated from Marshall in 1973, feels the Thundering Herd will have their hands full with the Mountaineers. "It's going to be a tough challenge for the Herd," Thomas said. "I think they'll hang in there, but I just don't know if we can pull out a win or not. I really hope they do."

Fans and players alike want nothing more than bragging rights for this game.

But the real pressure is on the coaches, especially WVU's Dana Holgorsen, who would never escape the demons of being the first Mountaineer mentor to lose to Marshall if the Thundering Herd were to pull the upset.

Throw into that mix that it's Holgorsen's first-ever game as a head coach, and that matchup the will be witnessed by a national television audience, and the heat is on.

And with the contest being only one of two games on Sunday's schedule, and the only one with a kickoff at 3:30 p.m., most of the nation's football fans will be glued to the tube for the game.

Then there's Marshall coach Doc Holliday, who is both a former coach and player at West Virginia University. After being passed over for the head coaching position at his alma mater after Rich Rodriguez left, Holliday would love nothing more than to put the Mountaineers in an early hole that would essentially ruin their entire 2011 season.

A victory over the Mountaineers would likely also launch Holliday's career, and in the process make him an instant god-like figure in Huntington.

The biggest thing, however, that makes this year's version of the game even more improtant than the past five, is that it may be the last time the two teams meet.

WVU athletic director Oliver Luck said back in June that there are no new plans to extend the series. Luck also said that because of the Big East's expansion, WVU?may only be able to play Marshall every now and then.

With this possibly being the last time the two foes meet for sometime, strap on your favorite team colors and enjoy the game. Whether at the stadium or on the couch, cheer on.



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