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Chuck Landon: MU comes up short on toughness in the end

Oct. 07, 2012 @ 12:00 AM

Football is meant to be a rough and tumble, physical game.

That's why the players wear helmets and pads.

Otherwise, it would be spelled "f-u-t-b-o-l" like in Europe.

At the end of the day, that's precisely what Marshall's 45-38 loss to Tulsa before a disappointed 27,189 fans at Edwards Stadium came down to Saturday.

Marshall got out-physicaled.

Marshall got out-toughed.

Marshall got out-hardnosed.

If football were a finesse game, Marshall would have won easily. But it's not. That's why Tulsa hung on for the win.

Perhaps, it's the only reason because Marshall actually outplayed the Golden Hurricane. All in all, the Herd is the better team.

Yet, Tulsa improved its record to 5-1, while Marshall tumbled to 2-4.

Why?

Again, it's because football is a physical sport and that's how Tulsa played this game. The hard-nosed Golden Hurricane lined up in a power formation and literally ran the ball down the beleaguered Marshall defense's throats.

It was by design.

"We run the football because we still think football is a physical game," said Tulsa coach Bill Blankenship.

Talk about a mindset.

After calling five passes on Tulsa's first nine plays, the Golden Hurricane virtually tossed the forward pass out of its playbook and went Knute Rockne on the Herd.

On Tulsa's next possession, it ran the ball on seven of eight plays for 75 yards including a 48-yard touchdown burst on a fourth-and-one play.

Then, on the Golden Hurricane's next possession, Tulsa rushed on 15 out of 16 plays for 60 yards including a 4-yard TD run.

By the end of the first half, Tulsa had run the ball on 27 of its final 30 plays for 163 yards (6.0 yards per carry) and two touchdowns.

"I felt like we could rush the football," explained Blankenship, "and take a toll on their defense."

He was correct.

Tulsa continued to pound the ball at Marshall's defense in the second half, running the ball on 10 of 13 plays during its first possession for 48 yards including a 2-yard touchdown.

Run. Run. And more run.

After the brief fling with throwing the ball during the first quarter, Tulsa actually rushed on 45 of its final 57 plays for 234 yards (5.2 per carry) and three touchdowns.

Game. Set. Punch in the mouth.

So, what did Tulsa see to make it think it could run the ball at will -- not to mention, at Jermaine and Devin and Brandon?

"I saw a Marshall offense for one," answered Blankenship. "They're averaging about 92 plays a game. We felt like we needed to help our defense out. We have a pretty good running game.

"It was kind of old school."

Indeed, it was.

And guess what?

In this day and age of spread offenses, video game-like scores and passes, passes and more passes, "old school" still works.

Just ask a grim-faced Doc Holliday.

"They came in to run the football and they did," said Marshall's head coach. "They were going to take the game out of the quarterback's hands. They rushed it 53 times."

And Marshall's rush defense couldn't do anything about it. Which actually comes as no surprise considering the Herd came into the game ranked a lowly No. 110 in the nation in rush defense.

Which leads us to Holliday's last words in his weekly press conference on Tuesday.

"The key to this game," he said, "is if we can control their running game."

Marshall couldn't.

Why?

Because football is a physical game and the Herd isn't physical enough.

Chuck Landon is a columnist for The Herald-Dispatch. Call him at 304-526-2827, or email him at clandon@herald-dispatch.com.

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