"That was a very emotional game and a great college football game," said Marshall coach Mark Snyder. "We knew going into the game it was going to be a defensive struggle.
"These are two mirror teams, and we came up a little bit short."
Cody Slate was all alone in the middle of the field, and scored this 34-yard touchdown to tie the game at 16-16 late in the fourth quarter. photo by Greg Perry/HI staff
Slate scored both Marshall touchdowns in the second half, on seven-yard and 34-yard passes, enabling Marshall to play catch-up to the Pirates of East Carolina. ECU enjoyed a 13-3 halftime lead, courtesy of a Davon Drew five-yard touchdown pass with just :12 remaining in the half. The Herd turned the ball over twice in the first half on interceptions and missed one-of-two field goal attempts.
Up until that point, the kicking prowess of both ECU's Ben Hartman (who hit 4-of-5 in the game, including a career-best 51-yard field goal in the first half) and Marshall's Craig Ratanamorn put the only points on the board. And on a windy day that edged into the evening, it would be kicking that ultimately decided the contest.
Marshall ran the ball effectively against the Pirates throughout the game. Darius Marshall collected 123 of the Herd's 149 yards on the ground in the game. Frosh QB Mark Cann was 13-of-30 passing, for 137 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions, after just hitting 2-of-7 in the first half.
Darius Marshall ran all over the Pirates, to the tune of 123 yards, plus had two kickoff returns for 88 more yards in the 19-16 overtime loss to ECU. photo by Greg Perry/HI staff
The Marshall defense, meanwhile, kept ECU's running game in check as the Pirates gained just 100 yards. The Pirates, however, picked their way down the field through the air, with QB Patrick Pinkney hitting 26-of-37 attempts for 287 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions.
"We threw the ball really well and efficiently, but we couldn't turn and run the ball," said ECU coach Skip Holtz. "They've [Marshall] got a good defensive football team which is very big and physical up front."
Albert McClellan wrapped up East Carolina back Brandon Simmons in the second half. McClellan had nine tackles and broke up a pass. photo by Greg Perry/HI staff
Marshall's first breath of productive offense came with about 10 minutes left in the third quarter. QB Mark Cann had thrown for only 11 yards in the first half, but put together a 10-play, 47-yard scoring drive in which he went 3-for-4 passing, moving The Herd steadily down the field. On third-and-goal at the ECU 7-yard line, Cann found Cody Slate all alone in the middle of the field and connected for the score. Craig Ratanamorn's missed extra point, off the right upright, would prove costly (and an omen) later in the game. The score cut ECU's lead down to 13-9.
Marshall freshman kicker Tyler Warner couldn't bear to watch after missing a 42-yard field goal in overtime against East Carolina. MU was just 1-3 on field goals, and 2-of-3 on extra-points in the loss. photo by Greg Perry/HI staff
East Carolina added another field goal by Hartman in the third quarter, that set up the need by Marshall for a touchdown to tie the game. Marshall got just that after reluctantly punting the ball back to the Pirates with just 1:58 left in the game. Coach Mark Snyder used all three timeouts during the Pirates' drive, and the defense came up with a three-and-out by stopping East Carolina on third-and-one. ECU punter Matt Dodge shanked the punt terribly, traveling just 15 yards to the ECU 40-yard line.
Cann wasted little time, however, hitting Marshall for six yards, and the Herd caught a break when his fumble went out of bounds. That set up Cann's pass to the wide-open Slate running down the left hash, and Slate easily outran defensive back Chris Mattocks for the game-tying score after Warner nailed the extra-point.
"All of a sudden, the tide turned, we got a turnover and they missed a field goal," said Snyder. "When you look at the statistics, it was a very evenly and hard-fought football game."
East Carolina kicker Ben Hartman missed this 42-yard attempt to win the game late in the fourth quarter, but won the game in overtime for the second time in six days. photo by Greg Perry/HI staff
Hartman joined the wonky kicking club, pulling the potential game-winning 42-yard field goal to the left with no time on the clock, sending the game to overtime.
In overtime, Marshall's wobbly kicking game would come back to haunt them. The Herd received the ball first on the 25- yard line. An trick throwback to Cann by receiver Bryant Milliagan was just barely broken up by ECU's defensive end Zack Slate. Cann had Chubb Small drop his next pass, then was pressured by Zack Slate as he tried to connect with Cody Slate of the Herd.
The fourth-and-ten led to kicker Tyler Warner receiving the shot at keeping Marshall alive. Warner's 42-yard attempt sailed wide right, and ECU now had to simply kick a field goal for the win, like they did on Sunday night at UCF in a 13-10 overtime win.
ECU back Norman Whitley ran twice to move the Pirates down to the Marshall 10 yard line, and Pinkney centered the ball in the field on third down. Hartman found redemption on the next play, booting the field goal from 27 yards out to give the Pirates the 19-16 thriller of a win in this battle for the lead of Conference USA's East division, now 4-1 to Marshall's 3-2 mark.
"It wasn't always pretty what we did offensively," added ECU coach Skip Holtz. "I was really proud of the way the kids hung in there. The feeling on the sideline was absolutely incredible."
Marshall is now 4-5 overall, 3-2 in C-USA play with the loss. East Carolina bumped up to 6-3 and 4-1, respectively. Up next for The Herd is back in Huntington for its 107th Homecoming being a match-up with UCF next Saturday in Huntington, WV. Game time is 4:30 p.m.