Gochneaur doesn#039;t want stigma of losing championship

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, November 12, 2003

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - Graham Gochneaur doesn't want to be the quarterback who lost a division championship during Marshall's stay in the Mid-American Conference.

No. 23 Miami of Ohio (8-1, 5-0 MAC) can clinch its first East Division championship and halt Marshall's run of six straight titles with a victory over the Thundering Herd (6-3, 4-1) on Wednesday night in Oxford, Ohio.

With Marshall heading to Conference USA in 2005, Miami could send notice that the leadership in the East is changing hands, although Gochneaur would like to postpone that transfer of power.

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''We have what we like to think is a little dynasty going here. It's our job to maintain the level we've been at and keep things going,'' he said. ''It would be unfair to the people before us to lose that respect.''

Perhaps the respect already has shifted to Miami, which is ranked in The Associated Press poll for the first time since the 1976 preseason.

''It doesn't get us a first down or a stop on defense, but I think it serves as motivation and a sense of responsibility that people around the country recognize our program to be worthy of consideration,'' said Miami coach Terry Hoeppner. ''We need to go out and play like a Top 25 team.''

Since a season-opening 21-3 loss at Iowa, Miami has won eight straight games, its longest streak since winning the final nine games of the 1977 season.

Marshall is on a four-game winning streak and is playing a Top 25 team for the third time this season. Marshall lost to then-No. 12 Tennessee and beat then-No. 6 Kansas State.

''Every game's a championship game for us from here on out,'' Gochneaur said.

Marshall has defeated Miami five straight times, including a 36-34 win last season in Huntington that denied the RedHawks the East Division title.

Gochneaur knows it would be foolish to try to match Miami's Ben Roethlisberger pass for pass. Roethlisberger ranks ninth in Division I-A with 2,767 yards. Gochneaur is making his fifth start in place of the injured Stan Hill.

''I'm just going to get first downs and put points on the board, whether that means me running the ball, handing the ball off or throwing the ball,'' Gochneaur said. ''Stats are just something to talk about and look pretty.

''The only stat I care about is wins and losses.''