Marshall football: Herd eager to get back to work
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - Film review couldn't have been an especially joyous exercise for the Marshall University football team, not after Middle Tennessee State's last-second touchdown handed the Thundering Herd a 51-49 loss last Thursday.
Yet Herd players said they couldn't get to a film room quick enough to divine where the blemishes were in that setback to the Blue Raiders, and how to prevent them from returning this Saturday, when Marshall (4-3, 2-1 Conference USA) hosts Southern Mississippi (0-7, 0-3 C-USA). The Herd and Golden Eagles will clash at 12:30 p.m. on the CBS Sports Network.
"It hurt," Marshall quarterback Rakeem Cato said. "It hurt a lot. But us, as a team, we have to bounce back from that and just keep on track."
The first step to bouncing back was to address the problems. And after a finish like the one Marshall suffered through in Murfreesboro - Blue Raiders quarterback Logan Kilgore capping a 79-yard drive with a 9-yard touchdown pass to Tavarres Jefferson - the Herd didn't want to waste much time.
"You most definitely want to get that bad taste out of your mouth," senior defensive end Alex Bazzie said. "When you lose a game like that, that's so close and comes down to the last three seconds, you want to go back and look at film and find out what caused it to come down to those last three seconds. What were we doing wrong? How were they making those plays?"
The defense set out to learn why one of the nation's top units reverted back to its 2012 form, which constantly had trouble getting off the field. Marshall gave up runaway season highs in yards and points against Middle Tennessee, and allowed the Blue Raiders to convert 10 of 20 third downs and four of five fourth downs. Kilgore earned C-USA offensive player of the week honors with his 277-yard, four-touchdown passing performance.
From what Bazzie saw, it wasn't a matter of preparation. That, he said, was solid. It was more a matter of energy, and the fact that the Herd didn't start the game with it.
"I think we were well-prepared," Bazzie said. "When we got there, we took too long to crank up. We took too long to adjust to their playing style. The coaches have been on us, saying we can't just turn it on and turn it off when we want to. We've got to play hard every snap."
Marshall's offense rebounded from, by its standards, some average games in its performance versus Middle Tennessee. The 49 points were the most since the Herd broke the 50-point barrier in back-to-back wins to open the season. The 448 yards were the most since Marshall gained 482 in a loss to Ohio.
Cato felt the offense had its bright spots last Thursday, but he was more focused after the game on the seven Herd drives that didn't end in scores. Besides an end-of-the-half interception, there were five punts, one punt blocked for a touchdown and an accidental kneel-down on a low punt snap.
"The times we did get stalled out, we could have put up points," he said. "We didn't have to be close to that standpoint. From an offensive standpoint, we didn't put up enough points to win the ballgame.
"That's how we look at it. If the offense puts up more points, we don't have to be in that situation."
The road to recovering from Thursday's loss isn't any smoother because of Saturday's opponent and the 19-game losing streak in which it's mired. From what the Herd has seen on film, that streak isn't due to a lack of talent. So it remains imperative, corner Monterius Lovett said, that Marshall learns from its mistakes.
"We can't take them lightly," Lovett said. "The preparation can't stop. We have to stay focused, go out there and do what we do."
Contact sportswriter Derek Redd at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-1712. His blog is at blogs.dailymail.com/marshall. Follow him on Twitter @derekredd.