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Not valuing the ball is costly for Herd

October 8, 2018

Marshall running back Tyler King fumbles on a carry against Middle Tennessee in a Conference USA football game Friday at Joan C. Edwards Stadium. The ball is at the feet of MTSU defensive back O.J. Johnson (4).

HUNTINGTON — In Marshall University head coach Doc Holliday’s plan to win, taking care of the football is one of the necessities for success.

In the past four games, the Thundering Herd hasn’t taken care of that aspect of the game.

On Friday, it might have cost Marshall (3-2, 1-1 Conference USA) a chance at a conference championship when the Herd fell to C-USA East Division rival Middle Tennessee, 34-24. Marshall committed three turnovers Friday — all of which contributed to the Herd squandering the opportunity to gain sole possession of first place in the division.

The most costly miscue of the game happened late in the second quarter with the Herd leading 10-3.

Marshall had found its rhythm in the rushing attack and was imposing its will on the Middle Tennessee defense. After a first-down pass, the Herd rushed the football on eight straight plays and moved 44 yards into Middle Tennessee territory. Marshall appeared to be on one of those statement drives that deflates the opposition and could have gone up two scores before halftime while receiving the second-half kickoff.

Instead, Marshall running back Tyler King, who had a career day with 165 yards, coughed up the football at the Middle Tennessee 33-yard line and the Blue Raiders (3-2, 2-0) marched back down to tie the game.

“We had them on their heels a bit at that point, but I thought we turned the ball over right there as well,” Holliday said. “That is not good. Anytime you let that offense back out there with (Middle Tennessee quarterback Brent) Stockstill, it becomes a problem. We just gave him too many opportunities and didn’t do a good job taking care of the ball.”

In the last four games Marshall has 14 turnovers, which has the Herd 128th out of 130 FBS teams. That statistic is even more damning, considering the Herd didn’t have a turnover in its season-opening win over Miami (Ohio).

Last week, Marshall had four turnovers and overcame them to get a 20-17 road win at Western Kentucky.

At the time, Holliday said the Herd can’t expect to win games if it continues to turn the ball over as it did.

Especially against quality competition, Marshall’s miscues are going to be costly, and the Blue Raiders made the Herd pay a heavy price Friday night.

It should be more frustrating for Marshall when the Middle Tennessee game video and statistics show that in many ways it was a game the Herd should have won.

Marshall rushed for more than 200 yards, which had been a bugaboo throughout the season. Middle Tennessee’s 11 penalties nearly doubled its most in any game this season. Marshall allowed the Blue Raiders to convert only four of 12 thirddown opportunities. The Herd got to the quarterback for five sacks.

When all those factors are put together, the team achieving those marks is typically talking about a win.

That is not the case for Marshall, however, because of turnovers.

Next game

MARSHALL at OLD DOMINION

When: 3:30 p.m. Saturday

Where: S.B. Ballard Stadium, Norfolk, Va.

TV: Stadium

Radio: 93.7-FM, ESPN 94.1-FM and 930-AM

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