BLACKSBURG, Va. - It sure seemed like the second visit here to Lane Stadium in Marshall's 2-for-1 series with Virginia Tech should've went the way of the Herd, didn't it?
Even though the Hokies are unranked, it was a bit of scheduling serendipity that the finale of the three-game series came one day after the 10-year anniversary of Marshall's last win over a ranked team. That was the 2003 shocker at No. 6 Kansas State, when the Herd was a 24 1/2-point underdog.
Virginia Tech was favored by a third of that (8 1/2 points) and didn't cover the spread in a 29-21, three-overtime win Saturday afternoon.
Don't knock the Herd for losing in triple overtime in an Atlantic Coast Conference stadium just because that opponent is listed in the "others receiving votes category" in the national polls. Virginia Tech's program has cracked the top 25 in 20 - T-W-E-N-T-Y - consecutive seasons. If the Hokies win at Georgia Tech this Thursday night, don't be surprised if they're back in the top 25 by Sunday morning.
Marshall, meanwhile, is 2-2 as it enters its off week, which is tucked neatly between the non-conference and Conference USA portions of the schedule. The wins and losses were divvied up evenly: two home wins and two road victories. Two easy wins over inferior competition, two losses in tough, but winnable games.
The last three words will stick in the craw of those in and around the Herd program. This team is a couple plays from being blemish-free.
The 64,060 rain-drenched fans saw a dead-even game destined for a few free football periods. The Hokies barely held the edge in first downs, 23-22, and total offense, 382-361. The score was 21-21 in the twilight of the fourth quarter.
Marshall didn't score in the last 43 minutes and 59 seconds of regulation, plus three overtimes. Virginia Tech didn't convert a third down after its second drive of the first quarter.
Both teams missed game-winning field goals in overtime during a heavy downpour.
It's easy to see why fourth-year MU Coach Doc Holliday spiked his whistle on an interview room table before speaking to the media.
He's now 19-22 through his first 41 games as a head coach, and is 5-16 away from home with four consecutive road defeats.
Holliday spoke about his love for this team. How they "play their ass off" and "they've done everything we've asked them to do."
"That won't quit," he added.
The Herd certainly didn't quit a physical showdown with Virginia Tech, but the offense did quit producing.
After Marshall scored three touchdowns in just over a quarter of play - equaling the number of offensive touchdowns the Hokies allowed in the first 12 quarters of the season combined - MU's offense couldn't muster much against Bud Foster's defense.
In fact, the Herd's three scoring drives were its only red-zone trips in regulation. The offense averaged a measly 2.42 yards per play on the final 13 scoreless possessions, which includes the three overtimes.
In the fourth quarter and the three overtimes, the Herd gained 30 yards on 23 plays.
Perhaps that's why Holliday and his offensive coordinator, Bill Legg, seemed so content to run three plays up the middle in the first overtime. When an official spotted the ball at the 25 - as overtime rules dictate - it was the closest Marshall had been to Virginia Tech's goalline since the 4:59 mark of the third quarter, when kicker Justin Haig missed a 41-yard field goal that would've given the Herd a 10-point lead.