Marshall and Buffalo have experienced similar football seasons.

Both started with long winning streaks that thrust them into the Top 25 and led to dreams of playing in more lucrative bowl games.

However, the Thundering Herd and Bulls picked the wrong time to stumble, leading to their convergence at Montgomery, Ala., on Christmas Day in the Camellia Bowl.

Marshall (7-2) was ranked as high as 15th after jumping out to a 7-0 start behind a staunch defense and the poised play of freshman quarterback Grant Wells. But the defense slipped just a bit and Wells struggled with turnovers and inconsistency.

After tossing five interceptions in a shutout loss in the regular-season finale against Rice, Wells completed just 8 of 24 pass attempts in the Dec. 18 Conference USA title game. UAB held Marshall scoreless in the first half and earned a 22-13 victory.

"Offensively, we have to play with more confidence," Thundering Herd coach Doc Holliday said. "We are not making the plays we were making before."

Nor is the Marshall defense stopping others from making plays, as it had most of the year. UAB owned the ball for more than 41 minutes and finished with 468 total yards, collecting 21 first downs and rushing for 216 yards against the nation's second-ranked run defense (88.9 yards per game).

Spencer Brown's 149 yards ended the Herd's streak of nine consecutive games without allowing 100 yards on the ground.

"We all know what we have to do, and we all know what happened," Marshall linebacker Eli Neal said. "We all won as a team when we were winning and on our high horse and we lost as a team. That doesn't make us any less of a team. The pieces just didn't fall together."

The Thundering Herd likely will build their bowl offense around running back Brenden Knox, who rushed for 887 yards in nine games and needs 148 to reach 3,000 for his career.

Buffalo went into the Mid-American Conference title game as a heavy favorite over Ball State after going 5-0 behind the sterling running of Jaret Patterson. But the Bulls coughed up 35 first-half points and couldn't play catch-up in the second half of a 38-28 defeat to the Cardinals in Detroit.

Patterson, whose 301- and 409-yard games in consecutive weeks against Bowling Green and Kent State that put him on the periphery of the Heisman Trophy race, was held to 47 yards on 18 carries by Ball State. He also injured his right knee and was limited during the second half.

According to Bulls coach Lance Leipold, Patterson plans to play on Friday.

"We'll see where it's at, we'll have to look at it," Leipold said. "We'll have to get to work on it and see where we're at from an availability standpoint."

Kyle Vantrease has been an efficient passer for the Bulls, hitting 63 percent of his passes for 1,186 yards with seven touchdowns and only two interceptions.

This will be the first time the teams have met since 2004, when Marshall was in the MAC. The Herd won that contest 48-14.

--Field Level Media

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