By Paul Tenorio | Orlando Sentinel UCF Writer
1:52 PM EDT, October 24, 2012
In advance of its 11th consecutive year playing Marshall, UCF prepares to bid farewell to one of its rivals. There's been some trash talk before the game, but not much of it is coming from Orlando.
In Huntington, however, words have not been spared. Here's a look at a few clips from the local newspaper, with my highlight from the story included, and then -- if you scroll way, way down, -- some of what has been said around UCF this week.
Dropping the color from their nickname is somewhat symbolic. It was added by athletic director Steve Sloan in 1993, by the way.
Since then, first the University of Central Florida decided it wanted to be known by just its initials -- UCF. And, now, there's the decision to pare the nickname to just Knights.
It occurs to me that UCF seems to want to take shortcuts most of the time. It's most definitely a trend. Which leads us right back to the Knights' ever-present NCAA probation.
If UCF would stop taking shortcuts with the rules, perhaps, the school wouldn't keep incurring NCAA sanctions.
This was the perfect primer, the quintessential warmup for the oh so essential second step.
Namely, Marshall vs. UCF.
This could very well be the biggest, most significant game in Holliday's head-coaching career.
That's how important a win over UCF would be. Most knowledgeable football people consider the Golden Knights as the premier team in Conference USA.
Why, even UCF's president believed the Knights were the team to beat. That's why he appealed NCAA sanctions, which allows UCF to compete for the C-USA championship.
There's only one significant obstacle standing in the way of UCF's East Division title run.
After seven consecutive victories over the Thundering Herd, after never losing to Marshall since the pair of football programs joined Conference USA together in 2005 and after one prediction out of left field this week, the veteran UCF coach finally lost to MU.
Darn, that feels good.
It all started innocently enough during O’Leary’s weekly press conference this week when the crusty coach surprisingly voiced the opinion that he thought Southern Miss would win the rest of its games this season.
The prediction had some relevance because O’Leary’s Golden Knights just had defeated the Golden Eagles, 38-31 in double overtime, a few days earlier in Orlando.
Yet, the off-the-wall pick still raised a few eyebrows and a few more hackles around the Herd universe.
It seemed just a little on the unnecessary side.
That’s another reason Marshall’s fans enjoyed the Herd’s 59-24 victory over Southern Miss so much Saturday night at M.M. Roberts Stadium. Besides breaking a two-game losing streak, the Herd actually proved O’Leary wrong.
Grant Traylor: No love lost between UCF and Marshall - Huntington Herald-Dispatch
The people simply don't get along.
And Marshall's football players really have an understanding of how deep the dissent runs.
"If we could put up a sign and say we are hosting tryouts this week for people who want to beat up UCF guys, you know, I think the whole city would come," said Marshall defensive end Alex Bazzie.
"With a team effort, we can't be beat," Marshall running back Kevin Grooms said. "Just like Doc says, put special teams, offense and defense together and we're unbeatable. We proved it (Saturday)."
Those are pretty strong words from the freshman, but his quarterback backed him up without hesitation after being asked who could top the Herd in an effort like Saturday's.
"Nobody," Marshall quarterback Rakeem Cato said. "No one in our next couple of games can beat us if we play like this."
Still, the Miami Central duo for the Herd said that familiarity means little in this rivalry matchup.
"You have to set the pride away," Cato said. "At the end of the day, they're at Central Florida and we're at Marshall. The high school junk gets put out of the way. We're trying to win a ballgame."
"I don't really care about all that," Shuler said. "There will be a little intensity. They'll try and get at us and get in our head. I just want to win, though."
FROM UCF (it's a shorter list):
UCF coach George O'Leary:
“I think every game’s a rival game. I think we’re on everybody’s high-list right now. I always look forward to going up there; they have a good fan base, they’re an active crowd. … I enjoy going up there and competing. This is a conference game. It’s a big game as far as they only have one loss in conference so we got to stay one game ahead. I think we’re at the stage [where] we got to control our own destiny as far as what’s taking place. Again, it’s a big game for us but every game is a big game. This will be a major, major game up in Huntington as far as Marshall’s attitude with what’s going to take place.”
RB Latavius Murray:
No, we heard from the coaches, they run their mouth a little bit, but we not about that. We just go out there and play, play our game and we leave it on the field.
RB Brynn Harvey:
Every year we play each other it's a good game. There's a lot of competitiveness, a lot of hitting so it's a very physical game. It's just a big rivalry in the conference that we look forward to every year and I'm pretty sure they look forward to it.
WR Quincy McDuffie:
We feeling comfortable. We know the environment and atmosphere we're going to be in, there's going to be a lot of animosity in the air, but as long as we have each other that's all that matters.
WR Jeff Godfrey:
I don't have a Twitter account, we really dont pay attention to it. We just go on the field and play with our shoulder pads and our helmets and our feet and at the end of the game we'll look at the scoreboard and see who won the game.
Former QB Kyle Israel:
It’s very intense. Obviously you realize when driving through Huntington it's more likely going to be good turnout at the football game because there is nothing else there. From where, when you walk out of the locker room you're right next to bleachers and you can easily hear fans and what they’re saying. I can remember times people saying things I couldn’t tell you today that you’d be able to publish. Always even more so than other programs, they are always saying rude, degrading comments to our football team and players and especially in 2006 when we got out of there with a victory on a last-minute field goal. ... As a player it is a tough place to play, they get behind that program and rightfully so. It's been established a long time, they were very successful in Division I-AA and the Division I ranks. They really care about that program. It's the lifeblood of that city in West Virginia as far as huntington and they make you feel that and make you know that.
(Later he added...)
Marshall’s a team we really don’t like, in my opinion. If you ask me as a former player two teams I can't stand, it's East Carolina and its Marshall. Just flat out can't stand them. We do not like Marshall and we do not like East Carolina.