Marshall football: In trying times, Herd rallies around teammates
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. -- It's never a fun exercise for a college football team to review game film after a loss. It probably was even tougher for Marshall's squad.
In watching the film from its triple-overtime loss to Virginia Tech, the Thundering Herd saw the errors that tripped it up along the way and the missteps that, if avoided, wouldn't have sent the team to its second straight loss.
Yet the Herd (2-2) limps into its bye week losers of two straight, and the players say they'll take this week to focus on themselves, to work toward eliminating those mental lapses before they host the University of Texas at San Antonio for homecoming on Oct. 5.
Some mistakes were glaring, like when the Hokies' Kyle Fuller was left unblocked on Marshall's opening drive and blocked a punt that Derek DiNardo scooped up for an 11-yard touchdown. Others weren't so visible to the untrained eye, defensive end Alex Bazzie said. Those were the times a Herd defender stood a little too deep or too shallow to make a play or a throw that would have gone for a big gain doesn't connect because the timing was off.
"They say football is a game of inches," Bazzie said. "One yard ... say you're supposed to be 10 yards deep and you were nine yards deep and you were just that step away from the interception. People don't realize you were supposed to be 10 yards deep.
"Now you're hurting all week," he added, "because that 1-yard difference could have possibly changed that outcome of the game."
That what will stick in the Herd's craw until the team takes the field again versus UTSA. In both the loss at Virginia Tech and the loss at Ohio, Marshall had chances to shift momentum, but was felled by costly mistakes. Versus the Bobcats, Marshall had cut Ohio's lead to 24-17 in the third quarter and had forced OU into a fourth-and-3 situation early in the ensuing drive.
But Corey Tindal was flagged for pass interference on the play, allowing the Bobcats to march on and finish an 18-play, 8-minute, 31-second drive with a Beau Blankenship touchdown run that returned Ohio to a two-touchdown lead in the fourth quarter.
Against Virginia Tech, on top of the blocked punt, Marshall had three turnovers, including two interceptions inside the Hokies 40-yard line.
And a 39-yard field goal attempt in the first overtime, that would have won the game if good, was blocked.
"It's tough to see it," offensive lineman Garrett Scott said. "But we know we have a good team. We're really team-oriented this year. We're really behind each other, so when you see guys make mistakes, we just try to encourage them."
That feeling of unity is what several players say wasn't there during last season's 5-7 campaign. Rather than splinter into factions, point fingers and assign blame, the players rally around each other. It's a crucial attitude during the bye week, when the Herd has the rare opportunity to work on itself rather than the next immediate opponent.
Quarterback Rakeem Cato said moving forward as a team will work if each player accepts his role in improving the group.
"It takes a team effort," Cato said. "It takes everybody to go 100 percent and go hard in everything we're doing. Watch film. Watch what you're doing and watch what your opponent is doing."
"You have to be a great individual at what you do," Cato said.
"Not saying you're an individual that listens to nobody, but you have to be a great individual in going hard with great effort. Then you have to be a great unit in what you're doing."
Contact sportswriter Derek Redd at email@example.com or 304-348-1712. His blog is at blogs.dailymail.com/marshall. Follow him on Twitter @derekredd.