HUNTINGTON — As Marshall kicker Justin Rohrwasser lined up for his game-winning 53-yard field goal on Saturday, several players couldn’t bear to watch the suspenseful moment.
With the game and future control of destiny in Conference USA’s East Division in the balance, Rohrwasser knocked through the career-long kick, setting off a celebration on the field.
Marshall defensive back Kereon Merrell was one of the players who didn’t watch. Instead, he took his cues from the crowd reaction after two suspenseful timeouts from the Hilltoppers.
“I couldn’t even watch the kick go in,” Merrell said. “My emotion was too high. I turned my back and I listened to the crowd. I figured they’d tell me if it went in or missed. It was crazy.”
Merrell especially remembers the sequence after the two timeouts to ice Rohrwasser.
“I was like, ‘Just make it, just make it, just make it, just make it,’” Merrell said. “When I heard the crowd screaming, I was like ‘Yeah, he made it.’ Then, I just ran on the field and found Justin.”
Rohrwasser said the scenario of hitting a game-winner is one that he’s gone over in his dreams since his young days when he first started learning his craft.
“Even sometimes, the dreams aren’t as good as that one was,” Rohrwasser said. “You dream about it every single game. The night before the game, you’re like, ‘This could come down to a long field goal or short field goal.’
“You just have to do your job. The coaches had faith and I was put in the position with a great group of guys. I’m lucky.”
As Merrell found Rohrwasser, there was plenty for the two to celebrate following Saturday’s 26-23 homecoming win over the Hilltoppers. Plays by both directly led to all 26 points in the Herd’s victory.
Merrell, a senior defensive back who finished with 10 tackles, snagged and interception and also recovered a fumble in the first quarter that led to 14 points as Marshall took an early lead. Rohrwasser then took over, connecting on all four field goal attempts, including the pressure-packed 53-yard field goal as time expired to account for the other 12 points.
For their efforts, the Marshall duo was honored on Monday. Rohrwasser was named the Conference USA special teams player of the week, while Merrell earned the defensive player of the week honors. It is Marshall’s third straight week in which it garnered some sort of accolades from the league office.
Last week, Brenden Knox earned offensive player of the week honors after a 220-yard, two-touchdown performance against Florida Atlantic, while on Oct. 14, defensive end Darius Hodge won defensive player of the week honors after a 4.5 sack performance against Old Dominion.
When asked about the accolades, both Merrell and Rohrwasser said it was a reason for the entire team to celebrate.
“I’m just one of the 11 people that [award] goes out to,” Rohrwasser said. “It’s everybody on the field goal unit. We had four of them and if the snap isn’t perfect and the hold’s not perfect and if the blocking isn’t perfect, none of that happens. I have the easiest job in the world when they all do their job.”
Merrell agreed, deferring his success to his brothers on the field.
“I couldn’t really make the plays I made, if it wasn’t for my teammates,” Merrell said. “They all did their jobs and allowed me to do my job.”
Rohrwasser’s 4-for-4 effort pushed his mark on the season to 11-of-11 — one of nine kickers nationally who are still perfect on the season. On Monday evening, Rohrwasser was also honored by the Lou Groza Award committee as one of its “Stars of the Week” for week nine.
Merrell is also fifth on Marshall’s team with 42 tackles on the season.