HUNTINGTON, W.Va. -- Marshall quarterback Rakeem Cato won't play favorites in choosing between which loss was worse, the Thundering Herd's 44-7 loss to Ohio in 2011 or its 27-24 loss to the Bobcats in 2012.
"Both," Cato said. "Both losses are unacceptable."
And both are serving as fuel for the Herd's 57th meeting with Ohio and the "Battle for the Bell," the prize for victory that's traded between the two teams, and has resided in Athens the last two seasons. Marshall (2-0) hasn't lost three straight to the Bobcats (1-1) since the 1978-80 seasons.
The last two losses to Ohio were equally crushing for the Herd. There were different paths to that disappointment. Marshall was in the 2011 game for about half of the first quarter before the Bobcats rolled up 37 unanswered points and turned a 7-7 tie into a blowout.
Last season, Marshall held a seven-point fourth-quarter lead, but the Bobcats scored 10 points in the last 10:43 of the game, then intercepted Cato at the Ohio 15 with 20 seconds left to secure the win. That loss became even tougher after the season was over. The Herd finished last season 5-7. Holding that lead until the end would have helped give Marshall six wins for the season and bowl eligibility for the second straight year.
That all gets tossed onto the "What if?" pile, and senior defensive end Jeremiah Taylor said that makes the loss sting even worse.
"You lose by those three points and you wonder what else we could have done," Taylor said. "Just looking at this year, I don't think we're going to have that problem. We're going to roll in guys and play hard each snap."
The Bobcats return many of the cast of characters from the previous two games, most notably quarterback Tyler Tettleton and running back Beau Blankenship. In the last two meetings, Tettleton has thrown for a total of 485 yards, six touchdowns and no interceptions on 40-of-64 passing and hasn't been sacked once. Blankenship rushed for 102 yards on 30 carries last year, plus the Bobcats should have a healthy Ryan Boykin at running back as well. He rushed for 130 yards on 25 carries against Marshall in 2011.
Defensively, the Bobcats have been pros at swiping the ball out of the Herd's hands. Ohio has pounced on nine total turnovers in the last two meetings, three last year and six in 2011. Four have come from fumbles and five from interceptions. Two seasons ago, Cato's last trip to Peden Stadium, he threw four interceptions on a dismal 9-for-21 night.