Fitting end for Marshall
HUNTINGTON -- In somewhat of a twisted way, Friday's 65-59 double-overtime loss at East Carolina was a fitting end to Marshall University's football season.
It featured a Marshall offense that put up points in bunches and a defense that couldn't get the big stop when it needed to.
For the Thundering Herd, that was the trademark of a season that ended with a 5-7 record and several difficult defeats.
And this was the most bitter and most lasting impression of the season.
"Ten seconds away from going to a bowl game," Marshall quarterback Rakeem Cato said. "We're losing sleep over this one. This one's not going off of our mind anytime soon."
The Herd put up some staggering numbers in the 2012 season.
Cato threw for 4,201 yards and 37 touchdowns while wide receiver Tommy Shuler capped his season with a 14-catch, 141-yard performance that included two touchdowns and a memorable record.
Shuler's 14 catches gave him 110, breaking Mike Barber's 25-year-old school record of 106 catches in 1987.
Still, when asked what would be remembered about the Shuler didn't even hesitate.
"This loss right here," Shuler said. "Just knowing that we rallied back -- we fought back well to come up with a win, and we came up short...
"It hurts right now just to see the seniors. I wanted to get them to a bowl game just to have fun and be with them one more time. It just hurts to see them go. They put in a lot to this program."
This game was more indicative of the season than even the close losses to Tulsa and Ohio earlier in the year.
Despite featuring a backup running back to start and having a backup quarterback come in after Cato was injured, the Herd willed itself to a lead with under two minutes to go following Essray Taliaferro's 1-yard touchdown run with 1:55 left.
There was a fourth-and-10 play with East Carolina backed up in its own territory -- a stop and the Herd is bowling. But a 19-yard completion kept the Pirates moving.
Then, on a third-and-goal from the 6-yard line with 10 seconds left, East Carolina's Shane Carden hit Danny Webster for the game-tying touchdown.
It was there, not in double-overtime, where the game was lost.
The overtime session started with ECU scoring on its first play against the Herd defense. The offense did all it could to hang on, but could not prevail.
Carden's third touchdown run of the game capped a game which was the highest-scoring regular-season Conference USA contest in history, eclipsing the previous mark of 62-55 in TCU's win over Houston in 2003.
If one were to write a book on Marshall's season, the title of it would be "One Play Away."
And after Friday, there are eight seniors who are not getting another play and many others who will have to wait nine months for the next play.