MAC titles at four. The Rockets have their own streak, with two straight victories over the Herd, including 2000's 42-0 shutout in Toledo in the regular season.
For the fourth time in the six-year existence of the championship game, the two schools hook up again on Saturday. But from the coaches' standpoint, there's no rivalry -- at least none with any animosity.
"We really respect their program," Toledo's Tom Amstutz said. "We enjoy these games. It's an intense game, and it's fun for the players. But I don't know if I'd say it's a rivalry."
Marshall's Bob Pruett says because the two schools aren't guaranteed to meet every year, like all the teams in the MAC East Division, it's simply not the same. He agreed with Amstutz in labeling the game "fun."
"These are the two best programs in the conference playing each other for a championship, and that really means something," he said.
The players, however, see it differently. Both sides view the game as a rivalry.
"Marshall is where you want to be," Rockets linebacker Tom Ward said. "They have all the rings on their hands."
Four, to be precise. The fifth one to fill out a full hand was spoiled last year. The Herd have a bit of revenge in their collective appetite after losing the crown last year.
Many don't want the revenge factor coming to the forefront. Instead, they want to forget about last year's title and concentrate on this year's to get the trophy back in Huntington. But defensive back Chris Crocker sees an opportunity.
"We have to get what they already have," Crocker said. "It's a great opportunity to not only win the MAC Championship but take it from the team who took it from us last year."
Saturday will mark 372 days from the 2001 game, when the Herd needed one full quarter and 3 extra seconds to explode to a 23-0 lead behind two touchdown passes from Byron Leftwich to Denero Marriott, a 62-yard run by Franklin Wallace and a 28-yard Curtis Head field goal.
Then Toledo used a variety of weapons to come back, and Todd France finally gave the Rockets a 32-29 lead midway through the third quarter on a fake field goal which turned about to be a 16-yard touchdown run. Chester Taylor's 8-yard run with 6:34 to go negated another Leftwich-to-Marriott hookup and gave Toledo the title.
"When you have a 23-0 lead, it's kind of on the defense," Crocker said. "That's what hurt us the most. We played so bad, there was nothing the offense could do. There's still a bad taste in my mouth."
Said fellow defensive back Terence Tarpley: "When the game ended, everything went numb. We were in a state of shock."
The Rockets have made the comeback victory somewhat of their mantra this season. They came from 10 points down to win in three of their last six games.
This is the most glaring similarity between the two schools, Pruett said. While Toledo has had to come from behind to win, Marshall has repeatedly been sluggish and fought off last-second efforts to save the victory.
At Central Michigan, Chippewas quarterback Derrick Vickers had his team driving in the final minute needing a touchdown to win. But he threw incomplete on fourth down near midfield, and the Herd escaped Mt. Pleasant with a 23-18 victory.
Ohio placekicker Kevin Kerr missed a 47-yard game-tying field goal with 25 seconds left, and Marshall escaped Athens with a 24-21 victory and a sixth straight divisional title.
But Pruett won't deny last year's loss to Toledo doesn't stick out.
"Your wins last a week," he said. "Your losses -- all your losses -- last for a lifetime. That's just the way football is. It sticks with you."
Sports writer Rob Peirce can be reached at 626-1444 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.