Marshall Defense Steps Up

Marshall defense steps up? Is that really what the title says? That is exactly what the title says, and that is exactly what happened at the end of the game against Rice. Two plays inside the seven yard line with the game on the line, and for three plays in the second overtime when it was needed, that is exactly what happened.

Marshall football failed in many ways over its last eight trips into Texas. The well chronicled eight game losing streak started on a crazy cold night in Fort Worth in 2004, where Marshall laid a gigantic egg in a bowl game that reportedly its players did not want to attend. After that, from 2005, through 2011, Marshall lost a couple close games, two at SMU and one at Houston, along with beat downs at Rice, at Houston and at UTEP x2.

The 2012 team knew going into its game against Rice that a very large monkey was on its back. The media spoke about it throughout the week. Marshall stormed into the game, and out to a strong 21 to 7 lead. The Herd held on to win a non defensive struggle, 54 to 51 in double overtime. Regardless of how the game played out, Marshall had its win. Not only did it have a win in Texas, but it had a win in Texas over a team who had beaten Kansas, and last season had beaten Purdue which just happens to be the Herd's next opponent. It also put Marshall atop the CUSA East standings at 1 – 0 and evened its seasons record at 2 – 2. It also has the Herd setting just four wins from post season play.

If you pay attention to the social networks, and the local message boards, one would think that Marshall go lucky to win against a East Texas High School's Junior Varsity team, when in reality it beat a pretty decent Rice team. It beat a Rice team on the road that made literally zero mistakes. The defense did not play overly well, but at the end of the day, when it counted, it stepped up on two of the last three drives and held the Owls to Field Goals. One of which was after Rice had picked up a first and goal from the two yard line with a minute to go in regulation. The other coming in the second overtime after Rice had just spent two plays to score in the first overtime.

It was not an easy win. It was not an easy game, but then again no win is easy, that is why each school at the FBS level (sans those that are in trouble for cheating), are allowed to offer the same amount, 85, of scholarships.

Remember back to your childhood when you were playing as Little Mac, on Mike Tyson's Punchout on Nintendo. Marching through the game you came upon King Hippo, before cheat codes. This monster of a man continued to beat you down. Little Mac lost each time, getting pummeled. Finally, you punch Hippo in the belly and he grabs his pants. You realize that if you do that over and over, it works. However, it is the third round, and you have two black eyes, been knocked down four times, including two in the final round. The stamina is down in the red, and you are one punch from losing. However, you hit him in the belly, then get a star punch, and knock him out. Now King Hippo takes less than one round to beat.

The Marshall defense was bruised and battered, mentally and physically, until they punched Rice in the belly. Sure, Rice got in another punch or two in the first overtime, but that's it. Finally, after four quarters, and an overtime, the defense figured out the belly punch. That was all she wrote for Rice. Marshall held the Owls to one final Field Goal, then a Remi Watson and Kevin Grooms carry, and the kids were dancing to the locker room with a big win.

Until the final four minutes of the game, the Marshall defense had held Rice to just 17 second half points, 7 of which were on a busted coverage. The defense was figuring it out. Marshall was not the team that was lucky enough to hold on. They were they team that finally held off the team that was lucky enough to still be in the game.

The Herd is playing without several first and second until players. Those include, but not limited to, James Rouse, Ken Smith, Rashawde Myers, Evan McKelvy, Darryl Roberts, and for quite some time on Saturday, Devin Arrington. They stuck together, and pulled out a hard fought win.

This article could, and possibly should, have been about the dynamic offense, the emergence of three running backs, the moving of Travon Van to defense, or the fourth big game from Rakeem Cato, but it is not, it is about the defense that rose from the mat, and took care of King Hippo…err…Rice.

Marshall now moves on to next week where it travels on the road for its final non conference game of the season, at Purdue. Kickoff time is set for 3:15pm on the Big Ten Network.

Stay tuned to Herdhaven.com for further updates and game analasyis.

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