Herd remembers painful loss
HUNTINGTON -- Sitting home at season's end and missing out on bowl contention by one game would make any competitor reflect and see where things went wrong.
One place that Marshall University football players often looked following the 5-7 campaign in 2012 was at the 27-24 loss to Ohio.
It wasn't that they lost, necessarily.
Ohio was a terrific team that went on to a 9-4 season and a bowl victory last season.
Instead, it was the way Marshall lost to the Bobcats at Joan C. Edwards Stadium.
The mistakes were plentiful, the rushing attack was non-existent and the regret?
Well, losing the traveling "Battle for the Bell" trophy to a rival and being one win away from a bowl at the end of the year says it all.
"Everyone has a bitter taste in their mouth from last year," Marshall offensive lineman Gage Niemeyer said. Marshall (2-0) and Ohio (1-1) meet again Saturday at 8 p.m. in Peden Stadium on the Bobcats' campus in Athens, Ohio.
Ohio closed last season's game by scoring the final 10 points after Marshall had a 24-17 lead with 14:13 left following Justin Haig's 37-yard field goal.
Miscues were rampant on both sides of the ball following Haig's field goal.
Ohio's next drive saw Marshall force a pair of third-and-10 situations, only to give up crucial first downs before the toughest play of the game -- a 27-yard touchdown pass from Ohio quarterback Tyler Tettleton to Ryan Clark on fourth-and-5 to knot the score.
With just less than five minutes remaining, Marshall was driving deep into Ohio territory for the leading score when receiver Antavious Wilson fumbled following a catch. The catch would've gone for a first down, but instead, Ohio returned the fumble to Marshall's 31-yard line to set up Matt Weller's 38-yard field goal to take the lead.
Marshall still had a chance to tie or take the lead, and appeared on the way to do so, once again driving inside Ohio's 30 late in the contest.
However, Ohio linebacker Jelani Woseley made a one-handed interception of a Rakeem Cato pass at the 15-yard line to end the heartbreaking loss for the Thundering Herd.
"It's one of those games that slipped away and it should've never gotten to that point," Cato said.
While many people will remember the fourth quarter as what cost the Herd, it is likely the first half that played the biggest part in Ohio hanging around long enough to earn the late comeback.
Less than 10 minutes into the contest, Marshall led 14-0 after touchdown passes from Cato to Jazz King and Aaron Dobson and the Herd had the Bobcats reeling.
Marshall had possession with a chance to go up three scores early, but ended up one yard short on a third-down attempt to give the Bobcats possession again.
Then came the ultimate gift.
A third-down stop was negated by an off-side penalty that gave Ohio a first down and the Bobcats proceeded to go 5-for-5 on third-down conversions over the rest of the drive to notch their first touchdown.
The deflating change in momentum left the Herd reeling the rest of the first half and the Bobcats scored 17 second-quarter points, capped by a 13-play, 96-yard drive to end the half.
Ohio went in leading 17-14 after Marshall ran just nine plays in the second quarter.
At the end of the day, Ohio won the turnover battle, kept the Marshall offense one-dimensional and got the key plays when needed.
It's a memory Marshall players are eager to get the chance to erase on Saturday.
"We're going to be ready this year," Marshall strong safety D.J. Hunter said. "They are a great team and we know what's at stake when we play them.
"I mean, I'm an Ohio guy and I've never beat Ohio since coming here. We've got to get ready for this week. That can't happen again."
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