Chuck Landon: Local teams suffered on ‘Black Saturday’

December 4, 2018

Welcome to “Second Guess” Tuesday.

Here are the opinions du jour.

>> Black Friday can be a lot of fun, but Black Saturday?

Not so much.

That’s what the Huntington area suffered last weekend.

First, Marshall’s football program got hammered, 41-20, at Virginia Tech in a game that wasn’t anywhere near as close as the score. Next, Spring Valley High School got smothered, 31-7, by Martinsburg in the Triple-A state championship game in Wheeling.

And the final indignity?

That would be the Marshall men’s basketball program getting embarrassed at long-time rival Ohio University, 101-84.

Suffice it to say, “The Road” wasn’t very kind to local athletic programs last Saturday. Whether it was in Blacksburg, Virginia; Wheeling; or Athens, Ohio; our teams got hammered.

Yes, hammered.

Marshall football lost by 21 points. Spring Valley fell by 24 points. And Thundering Herd basketball was defeated by 17 points. That’s an average losing margin of 20.6 points.

Pretty grim, huh?

The Huntington athletic community has had better Saturdays.

Waaaaay better.

The bad news is Spring Valley ended on a loss that will stick in its craw. The good news? Marshall’s football and basketball programs will live to play another day.

Herd hoops get right back into action at Duquesne at 7 p.m. Wednesday, then returns home to the Cam Henderson Center at 2:30 p.m. Saturday to host old Mid-American Conference rival Toledo.

As for football, Marshall has a couple of weeks to tune up for the Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl and a matchup against South Florida at 8 p.m. Dec. 20 in Raymond James Stadium at Tampa, Florida.

It’s a fairly interesting matchup between a pair of teams that finished the regular season with losses - USF fell to UCF, while the Hokies dropped Marshall.

More to the point, however, it was South Florida’s fifth consecutive loss after beginning the season with a 7-0 record. The Bulls beat the likes of Georgia Tech, Illinois and Tulsa, but then lost to Houston, Tulane, Cincinnati, Temple and UCF.

So, both teams are trying to get back on the winning track.

The good news?

It can’t be another “Black Saturday” for Marshall’s football program. Why? The Bad Boy Bowl is played on a Thursday night.

>> Is there any worse way to lose a conference championship game than how Middle Tennessee managed to lose to UAB?

I don’t believe so.

Here is the scenario. UAB led, 27-25, with 1:05 remaining. But the Blazers were facing a fourth-and-two situation and were going to have to punt the ball to star Blue Raider quarterback Brent Stockstill and his high-octane offense.

Middle Tennessee had a chance.

But, then, suddenly Middle Tennessee didn’t.

Before the ball was snapped an official counted how many Blue Raiders were on the field, counted again and, then, threw a flag. Middle Tennessee had 12 players on the field and it was ruled an illegal substitution.

That gave UAB a first down. Since Middle Tennessee was out of timeouts, UAB kneeled twice to run out the clock and walked off the field with a championship.

The key to the title was an illegal substitution.

“It was my fault,” said Middle Tennessee coach Rick Stockstill. “If anything goes wrong, it’s my fault. We had too many players on the field. It’s my fault. It’s not anyone else’s fault. It’s not the players’ fault. It’s my fault, nobody else’s.”

He’s right. The buck stops there.

Chuck Landon is a sports columnist for The Herald-Dispatch. Contact him at clandon@herald-dispatch.com.

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