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Marshall football: Inconsistency plagues Herd

HUNTINGTON - Lose one. Win one. Lose one. Win one. Lose two. Win one. Lose one.

The pendulum of momentum has swung back and forth for Marshall University's football team this season. At 3-5 and 2-2 in Conference USA, the Thundering Herd has yet to get rolling in a positive direction for any longer than one game at a time.

The last two weeks may have been the most extreme case, as the Herd followed its best overall performance of the year, a 59-24 road win over Southern Mississippi, with its worst, a 54-17 home loss to the University of Central Florida.

As the Herd prepares for this Saturday's 2 p.m. clash with 1-7 Memphis, the players return to what has become their season-long quest - finding the formula for more consistent success.

Sixth-year guard John Bruhin said it has become frustrating that this quest has gone on for eight games and the Herd has seemed to come no closer to a solution.

"It's hard to pinpoint, but we sit back and think about it all the time," Bruhin said. "We ask, 'What are we not doing right?' I think we come out to work every day and do the right things and sometimes it just doesn't fall in our favor. We're just got to keep working."

In thumping the Golden Eagles, the Herd reached season highs in yards (629) and points. The defense recorded its first multi-sack game with three and reached a season low in yards allowed (331) and tied a season low in points allowed.

In getting thumped by the Knights, the Herd stumbled to season lows in yards (364) and points, Marshall receivers dropped seven first-half passes and quarterback Rakeem Cato was sacked four times and hurried 10 times through four quarters.

The defense allowed the most points since West Virginia University scorched it for 69 in the season opener and allowed 568 yards, the third time its allowed at least that much this year. The Herd also could muster only one sack.

Those aren't the only examples. The Herd finally snapped its winless streak in Texas by beating Rice in double overtime, only to allow 28 second-quarter points the next week in a 51-41 loss to Purdue.

Defensive end Jeremiah Taylor said it's a frustrating predicament, but that's how life is some times. Ups and downs come and the Herd needs to fight through that. He said it starts with effective leadership.

"Right now we're going to need great leadership out of the captains and the seniors and finish out the season strong like we did last year," said Taylor, one of Marshall's defensive captains. "It starts with leadership. Last year, were down at Memphis and we were down a couple scores. We just had everybody in the game focused up and got the win and that carried through the rest of the season."

Redshirt junior corner Derrick Thomas said Marshall has the resiliency to turn the tide, like it did last season in winning four of its last five. A Penn State transfer who didn't start practicing until halfway through the Herd's first week of preseason camp, Thomas hasn't been on the team long. But he has been there long enough to see his teammates have the gumption to start a positive streak.

"The one thing I can say about this team is it's never really quit, momentum or no momentum," Thomas said. "We might not have momentum at times, but there are still guys going around the locker room trying to get guys together and pump guys up. No one's really sitting there with their head down.

"That's what I like about this team," he added. "All the adversity we've been through this year, all the things we've been through this year, guys never give up. Even when we don't have the momentum, guys are still out there fighting to make things better."

 Contact sportswriter Derek Redd at or 304-348-1712. His blog is at


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