Marshall, UConn have plenty to play for St. Petersburg Bowl
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) Marshall has a shot at another 10-victory season and Connecticut can finish with a winning record for the first time in five years.
So don't try to convince the Thundering Herd (9-3) and Huskies (6-6) the stakes aren't high in Saturday's St. Petersburg Bowl.
Both teams have enjoyed a week of fun in the Florida sun, while also focussing on what they want to accomplish on game day.
Marshall fell short of a goal of repeating as Conference USA champions, but finishing with double-digit victories again is important to coach Doc Holliday and his players.
The Thundering Herd went 13-1 a year ago and 10-4 in 2013.
''There's no doubt we'd like to do that because we'd be the only team in the non-power five to get 10 wins for three straight seasons, but I'm not sure there is any added pressure,'' Holliday said. ''Any time you go in to a football game, you have to do a good job of preparing and let the game take care of itself.''
UConn lost its regular season finale to Temple, but can finish with a winning record for the first time since 2010, when the Huskies were Big East champions.
''For us it's huge,'' coach Bob Diaco, finishing his second season at UConn, said.
''It's a big deal for our fans. It's a big deal for our student body. It's a big deal for the workers who represent the university,'' Diaco added. `'It's a big deal that we have a winning season.''
Some other things to know about the Thundering Herd and Huskies:
HOMETOWN FLAVOR: Marshall is led by QB Chase Litton, who played in high school in nearby Tampa. He's a true freshman who's started 10 games and thrown for 2,387 yards with 22 touchdown passes and seven interceptions. The Thundering Herd roster includes 25 players fro the state of Florida.
ON THE RISE: UConn, which went 2-10 in its first season under Diaco, won three of its final four games to rebound from a slow start. The Huskies are in a bowl game for the sixth time, first since winning the Big East five years ago and losing to Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl.
BEEN HERE BEFORE: Marshall is 3-0 in bowl games under Holiday, including a 20-10 victory over Florida International in the 2011 St. Petersburg Bowl. The Thundering Herd won the Boca Raton Bowl in 2014 and Military Bowl two years ago.
SOLID DEFENSE: UConn's defense was one of the best in the American Athletic Conference this season and statistically is one of the best Marshall has faced, allowing 352.2 yards and 19.8 points per game. The Huskies limited high-scoring Houston to 38 yards - nearly 200 below its season average - in handing the Cougars their only loss this season. ''When you get to a bowl you want to play the best, and everyone talks about UConn's defense. We're really looking forward to the challenge,'' Marshall TE Ryan Yurachek said.