Marshall’s QB change raises some questions
HATTIESBURG, Miss. — The race is virtually over. But the second-guessing? Oh, it’s just beginning.
Marshall’s 26-24 upset loss Saturday to Southern Miss in M.M. Roberts Stadium gave the Thundering Herd its second defeat in Conference USA’s East Division, dropping MU’s league record to 3-2.
Since FIU was 4-0 at press time and Middle Tennessee is 5-1, it means Marshall has virtually no chance to win the East Division.
But what’s really going to have the pundits playing devil’s advocate was Marshall head coach Doc Holliday’s decision to bench starting quarterback Alex Thomson after the junior threw an interception with 2:58 remaining in the second quarter.
Thomson’s errant throw, which was intended for Herd star wideout Tyre Brady, was returned 49 yards by Ty Williams to Marshall’s 46-yard line. Five plays later, Southern Miss quarterback Tate Whatley tossed a 4-yard touchdown pass to Quez Watkins on a fade route to tie the score 10-10 with 48 seconds remaining in the half.
When Marshall’s offense came back onto the field, former starter Isaiah Green made his first appearance since suffering a knee injury at the end of MU’s 20-17 win at Western Kentucky on Sept. 29.
It didn’t pay immediate dividends. Just the opposite. With 44 seconds left in the half, Green was blind-sided on a sack and fumbled. The fumble was recovered by the Golden Eagles’ Darian Yancy, who raced into the end zone from 17 yards out.
That gave Southern Miss a 17-10 halftime lead. More to the point, Marshall never led in the game again.
So, was it the right time suddenly to insert Green back in the lineup? Would it have been
better to take a 10-10 deadlock into the locker room, tell Green he was going to start the second half and let him warm up?
Furthermore, wasn’t it a rather quick hook for Thomson, who had managed Marshall’s victories over Old Dominion and Florida Atlantic with his steady play?
“We had some throws we weren’t making and that interception,” Holliday said, referring to Thomson being 5 for 13 for 49 yards and a pick when he was replaced. “So, we decided to make a change.”
That move produced mixed results.
Green did complete a 53-yard pass to Marcel Williams that set up Anthony Anderson’s 2-yard touchdown plunge in the third quarter to tie the game 17-17.
But with 4:39 left in the third quarter, Green’s high throw intended for Artie Henry was intercepted and returned 30 yards to MU’s 9-yard line. Southern Miss eventually settled for a 23-yard field goal and a 20-17 lead.
So, Southern Miss’ final 10 points came after Green turnovers. The redshirt freshman, who started MU’s first four games, finished 12 of 25 for 169 yards and a TD.
“I thought he did some good things in the second half,” Holliday said.
Perhaps, but three of Marshall’s four turnovers, including Green’s seventh interception of the season, came while he was quarterbacking.
And, now, with three games remaining and MU virtually eliminated from the East Division race?
There will be plenty of time for second-guessing.
Chuck Landon is a sports columnist for The Herald-Dispatch. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.