Herd defense saves game
By GRANT TRAYLOR
TULSA, Okla. — At the end of the night, the scoreboard said Tulsa put up 34 points.
Given the circumstances, though, it might have been Marshall University’s best defensive game of the season in a 45-34 football victory at H.A. Chapman Stadium.
In the second half, the Thundering Herd defense was put in many adverse situations that gave Tulsa a short field to work with. On four Marshall turnovers in the second half, Tulsa’s average starting field position was at the Herd 43-yard line.
After giving up two touchdowns as a result of the first two turnovers, the Herd defense bowed its back and allowed just three points on the final two miscues to keep the game within reach.
Marshall defensive coordinator Chuck Heater calls it “sudden change.”
The Herd offensive players called it a lifesaver.
“The defense held our heads,” running back Essray Taliaferro said. “What’d we have? Five turnovers? For us to win with five turnovers, that speaks to what the defense did. We gave them a short field and they held them to field goals with no pressure at all, so congrats to them.”
With the game tied, 31-31 late in the third quarter, a Marshall fumble gave Tulsa possession near midfield and the Golden Hurricane drove down to the 13-yard line. The Herd got pressure on freshman Dane Evans and forced a pair of incompletions before Carl Salazar’s 30-yard field goal gave Tulsa its first lead.
Despite the lead changing hands, it was a victory for the Herd defense after the Golden Hurricane had rattled off 20 consecutive points.
On the Herd’s next offensive series Taliaferro fumbled inside the Tulsa 10-yard line following a long pass and the Golden Hurricane returned it to Marshall’s 49. Things looked bleak for Marshall at that point as Tulsa had momentum and the comfort of being at home. However, the Herd did not allow any points off the change and was able to flip field position.
With the game in the balance, the defense played its strongest.
Over the final 5:48 of the game, Marshall forced a three-and-out and turned into a short-field touchdown to take the lead.
Then, the Herd defense finished the game off.
On fourth-and-11, Marshall’s James Rouse got pressure up up the middle, which forced Tulsa quarterback Dane Evans into the arms of Ra’Shawde Myers for a 20-yard sack. Marshall regained possession at the Tulsa 4-yard line. Taliaferro finished off the win with a 1-yard score.
“It was great,” Myers said. “Rouse gave us the pressure we all needed. Rouse came off the ball and I told him before we started to meet me in the backfield. That was his mission and we met at the quarterback.”
Marshall finished the game allowing Tulsa to convert just three of 17 third-down attempts while holding the Golden Hurricane to 4.2 yards per play.
Tiquan Lang picked off a pass for good measure to end it just minutes later to send the Herd into the victory formation.
It would have been fitting if the defense took the final snap in the victory formation.
It was their win.
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