Chance at upset slips away with mistakes
MORGANTOWN -- Before the Friends of Coal Bowl was played Saturday, most Marshall fans would have been elated if they had been told the Thundering Herd would lead at halftime.
Given the circumstances though, Marshall's 7-3 lead at the break was nearly as dejecting as it was energizing for the fans in green and white.
"It was frustrating, but at the same time we were still winning," Marshall tight end Lee Smith said. "We knew West Virginia had been a second half team all year. We just let it slip away from us."
An injury to West Virginia quarterback Jarrett Brown instantly limited the Mountaineers, and pushed the momentum in Marshall's favor early.
But each time the Herd was given an opportunity to break the game open, Marshall gave that opportunity right back.
Leading 7-0, the Herd recovered a fumble and took over inside West Virginia's 35-yard line. After a promising march, Darius Marshall fumbled at the 6-yard line, giving West Virginia the break right back.
Smith held nothing back when speaking of how big the play was.
"Their backs would've been against the wall, and then they would've had to do things outside of their comfort zone. If we'd have gone up 14, they would've been uncomfortable and our defense would have beaten them up pretty bad," he said.
Marshall's defense kept plugging away, holding West Virginia without a first down in the final 29 minutes of the first half, but the Mountaineers used an interception to draw within four points at the break.
"It was kind of frustrating because every time you get a stop, you want the offense to go and put it in the end zone," Marshall linebacker Mario Harvey said. "But we kept doing what we had to do."
At the end of the half, every aspect of the game was working in favor of Marshall except the score.
Here's a sample.
Marshall had 11 first downs to just two for WVU.
Total yards favored the Herd, 139-85
Time of possession was nearly 2-1 with Marshall controlling the ball for 19:21 of the first half.
Yet the lead was only 7-3.
Marshall was leading, but the atmosphere said differently as West Virginia went to the locker room with a quiet confidence after dodging several self-inflicted bullets.
The trend carried itself into the second half as West Virginia came out with fire and miscues plagued the Herd.
With Marshall trailing 10-7 and facing third-and-33 following successive bad snaps, the Herd appeared to move back into field goal position on a Cody Slate reception over the middle. Instead of having an opportunity to tie the game, Slate fumbled the ball into the waiting arms of the Mountaineer defense at the West Virginia 26-yard line.
It was the second time one of Marshall's leaders gave the ball away at a critical juncture and it proved to be the last time the Herd would threaten to score.
West Virginia turned the turnover into a touchdown to take a two-possession lead and seize control.
"We blew some opportunities and it was me and Darius. We know we can't do that, especially being leaders on the offense," Slate said. "That's very uncharacteristic of us. In a big game like this, we can't do that.
"We knew coming in that they were a great team and that the chances we get, we needed to take full advantage of.
"Unfortunately, we didn't do that today."