HUNTINGTON, W.Va. -- As Metallica's "For Whom the Bell Tolls" blared on a third down in the first half Saturday night, my attention shifted from the field to the sidelines.
There I noticed Marshall Coach Doc Holliday imploring the sixth-largest crowd (33,463) in Edwards Stadium history to stand up and get loud. His Thundering Herd, as a 5.5-point underdog, had an early 14-point lead against undefeated Ohio in the Battle for the Bell.
Holliday flapped his arms, palms up, six times before the ball was snapped. As the Marshall defense thwarted Ohio's third-down conversion attempt, the 55-year-old Holliday sprinted down the sidelines, ripping his headset off with his left hand and pumping his right fist emphatically.
Hours later, that unabashed enthusiasm had been wiped away by a 27-24 loss to Ohio. The Herd is below .500 at 1-2. Holliday is 1-3 against Mid-American Conference teams.
What went awry?
That's more difficult to dissect when one considers this first in Marshall football history:
The Herd had a 400-yard passer and held the opposition to fewer than 30 points and lost. That hadn't happened here.
That seemingly lethal combination of an offensive air assault and respectable scoring defense had generated 11 wins in 11 tries in MU's long football history.
If you're one to finger point, the Herd's offensive balance - or lack thereof - is a natural place to start.
Sophomore quarterback Rakeem Cato threw for 432 yards - the 14th-best single game total in program history - and shattered numerous team and stadium records, but he was also the leading rusher with 32 yards.
A trio of running backs assisted the offensive output with a measly 27 yards on 16 carries.
Marshall outgained Ohio 491-399, but the Bobcats almost split their yardage evenly: 199 on the ground and 200 through the air.
Does it matter how a team moves the sticks?
"We had to do whatever we had to do to try and win the game," Holliday said. "We're going to take what the defense gives us and they were giving us some slants and some bubbles and some things we were taking. As long as we continue to move the ball I don't care whether we run it or throw it."
He might want to rethink that.