Special to HuntingtonNews.Net
(Spencer File Photo)
(Spencer File Photo)
St. Petersburg, Fla. – Marshall, led by a big-play offense and an opportunistic defense, is headed to the 2011 Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Bowl St. Petersburg as the Conference USA representative after accepting a bid. The Thundering Herd will face FIU in the fourth edition of the ESPN Regional Television (ERT), a subsidiary of ESPN, owned bowl game at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Tuesday, Dec. 20, at 8 p.m. ET on ESPN.

Tickets to the Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Bowl will go on sale through the Marshall University Athletic Ticket Office, starting Monday, December 5th at 8:30 a.m. Tickets can be purchased online at HerdZone.com or by calling 800-THE-HERD. Tickets are $55 for lower level.

All Basketball season ticket holders who will be attending the bowl game on the 20th and will not be present for the home basketball contests on the 19th and 21st are asked to send their tickets back to the ticket office or to make sure their seat is occupied.

The Panthers finished the 2011 regular season with the best record in program-history and the best record in the state of Florida, an 8-4 mark, which included a 3-0 start, the best in FIU history. FIU's amazing start was made possible by victories over conference foe North Texas, and out-of-conference wins over in-state rival UCF and Louisville of the BIG EAST. The win over the Cardinals, played in primetime in front of a national ESPN audience, marked the program's first-ever victory over a team from a Bowl Championship Series (BCS) automatic qualifying conference.

“Marshall football has a storied tradition dating back to 1895 and the program appears back on the rise,” said Brett Dulaney, Executive Director of the Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Bowl St. Petersburg. “We are excited to welcome the Thundering Herd to our game for the first time and are looking forward to an excellent matchup.”

“We are thrilled to take part in the Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Bowl,” said Mike Hamrick, Director of Athletics at Marshall. “The team will get two weeks of additional practice, along with gaining valuable national television exposure. Marshall University has a significant alumni contingent in, not only the Tampa-St. Petersburg area, but the entire state of Florida. The prospect of showcasing Herd Football to that region is exciting.”

Marshall is led by head coach Doc Holliday, who returns to the Sunshine State after serving as an assistant coach for the University of Florida under Urban Meyer from 2005-07. Holliday was the associate head coach at Florida when the Gators won the 2006 National Championship.

“I want to thank the Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Bowl staff, President Dr. Stephen J. Kopp, AD Mike Hamrick and the Conference USA staff for the opportunity to play in this game,” said Holliday. “We are excited to bring our program to the great state of Florida, which is home to over 30 of our current players and many future prospects.”

Marshall’s defense is led by senior defensive stalwart Vinny Curry, a finalist for the Ted Hendricks Award, as the nation’s top defensive end, as well as candidate for the Bronko Nagurski Trophy (nation’s best defensive player), the Chuck Bednarik Award (nation’s best defensive player) and the Rotary Lombardi Award (nation’s best lineman). Curry ranks second nationally this season with 21.5 tackles for loss, tied for second nationally with six forced fumbles and tied for fifth with 11 sacks. His 48.0 career tackles for loss is also tops among all active FBS student-athletes, while his 26.5 sacks rank him seventh.

Thundering Herd junior wide receiver Aaron Dobson led the team with 10 receiving touchdowns this season, while the running back tandem of Tron Martinez (591 rushing yards, 3 TDs) and Travon Van (529 rushing yards, 3 TDs) paced the ground attack in 2011.

Marshall (6-6, 5-3) has played the 12th-toughest schedule in the nation, according to the GBE College Football Ratings. Marshall won a program-record five Conference USA games and finished second in the league’s East Division. The Thundering Herd will be making the 10th bowl appearance in school history and first since 2009, when they posted a 21-17 victory over Ohio in the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl at Ford Field in Detroit.