HUNTINGTON, W.Va. -- Whether it was the 79-yard punt return allowed for a touchdown or the 42-yard kickoff return ... or the roughing-the-punter penalty ... or the blocked punt, Marshall's special teams had little to celebrate in a 38-31 loss to the University of Alabama at Birmingham.
Yet those struggles weren't isolated to that game.
They've flummoxed the Thundering Herd for several contests.
They're problems the Herd (4-6, 3-3 Conference USA) needs to solve before Saturday, when Houston (4-6, 3-3 C-USA) visits at noon for Marshall's home finale (CSS).
Scheme, the players say, isn't the issue. It's the on-field mistakes that allow for big plays.
"What we're doing works," said redshirt sophomore Jazz King, a member of Marshall's punt, kickoff return and punt block teams. "It's just that everybody has to do their job. It's just that one mistake that lets a team take it for a touchdown."
Special teams haven't been an issue during Doc Holliday's Marshall tenure until now.
The Herd is 113th out of 120 Football Bowl Subdivision teams in kickoff return yardage allowed (25.05 yards a return), and is giving up 3.2 yards more per return than last season.
The Herd is a bit better in punt return yardage allowed, ranking 86th at 9.81 yards per return. That's 1.76 yards per return higher than last year.
But the four touchdowns Marshall has allowed on special teams in 10 games quadruples the total the Herd allowed in 2011 and matches the total it allowed from 2007-11. And opponents are getting plenty of chances to make special teams plays. Marshall is last in Conference USA with five touchbacks.
While opponents are making gains on Marshall on special teams, the Herd hasn't been as potent this year as it was last season. Marshall averages about two fewer yards per kickoff return, dropping from 22.32 yards per return last year to 20.30 yards this year. On punt returns, Marshall averages more than three fewer yards, falling from 11.71 yards per return to 8.14 yards.
The scores allowed have been the most damaging. The UAB punt-return touchdown came right after the Herd had taken a 7-0 first quarter lead. Jackie Williams' scamper and stretch into the end zone killed the momentum Marshall gained on that first score.