Marshall notebook: 10-play stretch made Herd defense look dismal vs. Rice
HUNTINGTON - As disastrous as that double-overtime win over Rice looked for Marshall's defense, the postgame re-examination process didn't center on all 93 of the Owls' snaps.
"Within 10 plays, we gave them 300-and-some yards," said defensive end Alex Bazzie. "And we went over those 10 plays and made corrections, just in case we ever get that look again."
Indeed, Rice reeled off 10 plays of 20 or more yards, including touchdowns of 30, 31, 43, 43 and 50 yards. The longest non-scoring play was 47 yards, the late run in which quarterback Taylor McHargue dove for the end zone and fell 2 yards short - and knocked himself out with a shoulder injury.
The 10 plays totaled 331 yards, more than half of Rice's 647 total. McHargue accounted for 467 total yards, more than enough to capture offensive player of the week honors from Conference USA.
Furthermore, McHargue came up with 129 of those in the final 4:10 of regulation as he willed his team from a 10-point deficit to tie the game. In recounting the game on Monday, several Herd defenders shared their frustration at failed attempts to tackle him.
Or even make contact. Whether by scheme or by talent, McHargue baffled Marshall right up to his exit.
"They ran this little funky kind of option read," said defensive end Jeremiah Taylor. "It wasn't [keyed] to the ends, it was to the three-technique [tackle]. If the three-technique took the dive, then the quarterback would keep it, right up the middle."
"I didn't think he was that elusive, until he stepped on the field," said safety Okechukwu Okoroha, who had a team-high 16 tackles.
The 2-2 Marshall team is making the big plays on offense, too.
The website Football Scoop reports the Herd is leading the nation in plays of 10 yards or more, with 89 in four games. Oregon is second with 87.
Kevin Grooms had his share of those plays against Rice, with 17- and 45-yard runs for touchdowns. He also scored on a 5-yard reception and the game-winning play, a 5-yard run in the second overtime.
He was honored as C-USA's offensive player of the week, not by the league but by collegesportsmadness.com.
And so it's on to Purdue, where the Herd must pursue and tackle a lot better. The Boilermakers (2-1), who were off last weekend, previously rolled up 392 rushing yards in a 54-16 win over Eastern Michigan.
EMU used two turnovers to close a lead to 13-9, but the Boilermakers struck quickly to lead 33-9 at the half and 47-9 with 11:14 left in the game. They scored on runs of 40, 87, 56 and 15 yards, and on Caleb TerBush passes of 18 and 80 yards.
Purdue (2-1) is getting a few votes in both major polls, perhaps as much on the strength of its lone loss, 20-17 at Notre Dame. TerBush's 17-yard TD pass to Antavian Edison tied the game with 2:17 left, but the Fighting Irish drove for a late field goal to win.
For what to expect, Taylor said, "Hard-nosed running. A lot of rollout, they're going to pull a lineman out with them. A lot of slide protection; that's what you're going to get with them. They're big, they move pretty well, they finish blocks and everything. We're going to have to take care of business up front."
Even more hard-nosed is the Purdue's defensive front, led by tackles Kawann Short and Bruce Gaston. Short, a 6-foot-3, 315-pounder with three sacks and four tackles for loss already, is rated a potential NFL first-round draft pick. Gaston has two tackles for loss.
Marshall coach Doc Holliday sent word to the media that no, he did not call for a faked extra-point kick with the Herd up 41-31. Holder Blake Frohnapfel "coned" the football and it squirted away, and he did what he could to salvage the play.
No receivers went to the end zone until they realized the play went awry. Frohnapfel essentially threw to extended arms (probably those of brother Eric), but did not connect.
In postgame remarks, Holliday muddied the issue by mentioning that a successful 2-point conversion would have given the Herd a 12-point lead, forcing Rice to score two touchdowns instead of one touchdown, a 2-point conversion and a field goal.
Walk-ons Eric Douglas and Lorenzo Steele have left the Marshall program. Steele was a 5-foot-8, 170-pound redshirt freshman cornerback; Douglas was a freshman from Parkersburg listed at 5-5, 130.
Reach Doug Smock at 304-348-5130 or email@example.com.