RedHawks, Herd look to reverse trend
HUNTINGTON — Last season’s football contest between Marshall University and Miami (Ohio) was one for both sides to remember.
For Marshall, the game started quickly with Keion Davis taking the opening kickoff of the season back for a touchdown — the first of two kickoff returns for touchdowns he had that day.
Still, on its own home field, Marshall needed a defensive pass break-up in the end zone on the game’s final play to hold on for a 31-26 win over the pesky RedHawks, who had largely out-performed the Thundering Herd — especially from an offensive standpoint.
Miami (Ohio) outgained the Herd, 429-267, had possession for 11-plus minutes more and had 10 more first downs.
Yet, the RedHawks walked out of Joan C. Edwards Stadium with a loss.
“You watch them play and our game was a tough game and Cincinnati, they
should’ve won that game,” Marshall coach Doc Holliday said. “They had it won and lost at the end.”
Holliday’s reference to the Cincinnati game was the RedHawks’ 21-17 loss to the Bearcats when Miami (Ohio) literally gave the game away.
Miami (Ohio) led 17-6 with less than five minutes left and appeared on its way to a win, but a disastrous final stretch saw the RedHawks fall apart, giving up a 75-yard drive in under two minutes, then inexplicably throwing an interception with under two minutes to go that was returned for the game-winning score.
The game at Marshall — and subsequent loss at Cincinnati — sparked a trend that carried throughout the RedHawks’ 5-7 season. Miami (Ohio) simply struggled in close games.
Of Miami’s seven losses, five were by one possession or less. That included three losses in Mid-American Conference play — a 37-29 home loss to Bowling Green, a 17-14 loss to Kent State and a 27-24 home loss to Eastern Michigan — that took the RedHawks from a MAC East contender to a losing record.
What makes it more difficult is the RedHawks had the lead in all three of those conference losses.
They led Bowling Green in the fourth quarter before giving up 13 unanswered to the Falcons, who got their first win of the year in the road comeback. Miami (Ohio) also had a double-digit lead over Kent State before being shut out in the second half and the RedHawks led Eastern Michigan at the half.
One-possession games were just as damning for Marshall as they were for Miami (Ohio) in 2017.
The last four games of Marshall’s regular season were all one-possession games with the Herd losing three of the four — a 30-25 loss to Florida Atlantic when the Herd had four turnovers, a 9-7 loss at UTSA when the Herd allowed a last-minute drive for a gamewinning field goal and a 28-27 loss to Southern Miss when Marshall scored a touchdown late and missed the game-tying extra point.
Technically, Marshall got a 31-28 win in the Gildan New Mexico Bowl, which on the surface looks as though the Herd found a way to win a close game. However, the Herd led that contest by 17 after three quarters and held on for a win.
On Saturday, Marshall and Miami (Ohio) will take the field looking to start 2018 by reversing the trends of 2017.
And there will be one theme for both. That theme? Finish.