HUNTINGTON — Marshall University didn’t deserve to win.
But won in spite of itself.
It didn’t deserve to win, either, and got its just desserts.
That’s the sort of nobody-deserves-to-win game this was.
Yet, the last-second 26-23 victory does indeed go down as a “W” for Marshall here Saturday before some moist fans and even more empty seats in Joan C. Edwards Stadium.
Geez, where do I start?
How about the fact that three Western Kentucky turnovers in the first half staked Marshall to 17-0 and 20-7 leads? But did the Thundering Herd make the most of those miscues?
Instead, Marshall squandered and squandered and squandered some more.
Despite leading 20-7 at halftime, Marshall continued its much-lamented third quarter offensive woes. The Herd managed only 88 yards total offense — just 16 yards rushing — and scored just three points on Justin Rohrwasser’s 43-yard field goal.
That continued a trend of third-quarter impotency that has resulted in only one touchdown in seven FBS games this season. Marshall scored zero third-quarter points against Boise State, Ohio, Cincinnati and Middle Tennessee. It managed five points vs. Florida Atlantic (field goal and safety), but two of the points belong to the defense. Then, the Herd scored three points vs. Western Kentucky.
When is this unseemly trend going to be reversed?
That query was rhetorical, by the way.
As seemed to be proven in this game that should have been euthanized after three quarters, the opposing offensive coaches seemed to be trying to out-guru each other.
The game began with the Hilltoppers moving the ball on their first possession with runs and short passes. Until, of course, it got greedy, tried to throw deep and tossed an easy interception.
That played right into MU’s hands, eventually allowing quarterback Isaiah Green to throw a 25-yard touchdown pass to tight end Armani Levias.
And when WKU regained possession? Again, it was moving the ball until quarterback Ty Storey was sacked and fumbled it away.
Two WKU possessions, two turnovers (one interception, one fumble recovery) for MU cornerback Kereon Merrell.
But the generosity wasn’t over. Next, WKU missed a 32-yard chip-shot field goal.
And all that was just in the first quarter.
It didn’t get much better, unfortunately. Marshall took a seemingly safe, but underwhelming, 20-7 halftime lead, until the third quarter reared its ugly head.
The next thing the soggy fans, somewhat comatose officiating crew and bleary-eyed residents of the press box knew, Western Kentucky had rattled off 17 unanswered points and the score was inexplicably tied at 23.
OK, I suppose I should explain the officiating reference. It seems No. 43 Owen Porter was a member of MU’s punt team on all five punts Saturday. The catch is MU punter Robert LeFevre also wears No. 43 and the officiating crew didn’t catch the duplicate numbers until the fifth punt.
Nod if you can hear me, zebras.
That set up the game-winning play not once, not twice, but three times with only six seconds remaining. That’s because WKU coach Tyson Helton called timeout not once, but twice, trying to freeze MU’s Rohrwasser.
It didn’t work because after each timeout, Rohrwasser went ahead and kicked the 53-yarder. And he made both practice field goals.
So, of course, Rohrwasser nailed the third one that actually counted.
Thanks, Coach Helton.
Marshall tried not to win, but WKU insisted.