Marshall football: Herd not looking to repeat history
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. -- Marshall guard John Bruhin got the first hint that last season's game at Tulsa might take some unexpected turns when he wasn't able to make turns on his ankle.
"I tried to get out on a screen one time and that's when I realized I was a step slower," the sixth-year player said. "I couldn't make the cuts I was trying to make."
He watched from the sidelines as then-starting quarterback A.J. Graham left the game in the second quarter with a dislocated shoulder. And he watched as the Thundering Herd imploded into bickering and finger pointing while the Golden Hurricane sprinted away with a 59-17 win.
The Herd (2-3, 1-0 Conference USA) will guard against that when Tulsa visits Saturday at 3:30 p.m. (CBS Sports Network).
"That's never anything to be around," the 6-foot-5, 312-pound Bruhin said. "Sometimes that stuff snowballs. As a leader, that's one of the things you have to try to look for. When stuff does start going downhill, you have to make everybody get level-headed again and realize that stuff's going to happen."
By the second quarter of last season's game, it was out of reach. Tulsa owned a 42-3 halftime lead and blistered the Herd for 682 yards, the most Marshall has allowed in one game since it joined the Football Bowl Subdivision. And when the contest got out of hand, tensions began to boil over.
Defensive end Jeremiah Taylor said it was tough to clash with the Hurricane when the Marshall players were clashing with each other.
"The offense wasn't good," Taylor said. "The defense wasn't good. That was a game where we were going back and forth. After a certain point, we just lost it and couldn't get it back."
Marshall wide receiver Aaron Dobson remembered - and not fondly - the way the team struggled against Tulsa and against its own frustrations.
"It's hard to win like that," he said. "When things start going wrong on the field, other players can't start pointing fingers and start arguing back and forth with each other. We're all a team, so just have to get it together."
But Dobson doesn't see that happening with this year's team. After all, the Herd could have collapsed last week after falling behind four touchdowns at halftime versus Purdue.
Yet Marshall rallied to make it a game, losing 51-41.
"I feel like our team is to the point right now where we've got each other's back," he said. "We're just feeding off each other and that helps a lot."
The Herd faces a Tulsa team with nearly as much potential for yards and points as it did last year. The Hurricane (4-1, 2-0 C-USA) is tops in the conference in scoring (42 points per game) and rushing (244.8 yards per game). It's also C-USA's top total defense (338 yards allowed per game) and rushing defense (104.6 yards allowed per game), a stout foe for quarterback Rakeem Cato and Marshall's offense, ranked third in the FBS in passing, averaging 394.6 yards per game.
"We have to stay in the moment," Taylor said. "They're a good team. They're going to make some good plays, too. We just have to make sure we do stay in the moment, and play with confidence."
Contact sportswriter Derek Redd at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-1712. His blog is at blogs.dailymail.com/marshall.