Chuck Landon: Marshall's Goff had reasons for struggling
Marshall's fan base is baffled.
And rightfully so.
Why did it take 63 games for Rob Goff to explode for a career-high 27 points? Why didn't the 6-foot-9, 240-pound power forward find himself a lot earlier than the last regular-season game of his collegiate career? Why didn't Goff score in double-figures in any other game this season?
It must be coach Tom Herrion's fault, right?
These are the perplexing questions that punctuated Marshall's perplexing season with an exclamation mark.
The answer hides behind the scenes.
In a Marshall season fraught with injury and ineligibility, Goff is just now finally feeling healthy. That's what people didn't know. They saw him struggle and leaped to the conclusion he was just another over-rated junior college transfer.
Wrong on two counts.
Remember the old spiritual, "Nobody Knows the Trouble I've Seen"? Well, Goff could have sung that song in his deep, bass voice with Louis Armstrong accompanying on trumpet.
It all started last summer.
"I hurt my right knee during workouts," explained the senior from Indianapolis. "I irritated it a little bit and, then, it tore my meniscus a little bit. So, I had to have surgery on that. Then, the rehab took six months."
Next, there was the horrific, fluke accident when Goff and 7-2 Yous Mbao collided head-to-head in a practice during Thanksgiving week.
"I got a full-blown concussion," said Goff. "That's nothing to play with. I had to get five stitches in my forehead and I missed three weeks. I don't really remember it. They just told me we hit heads. I woke up on the stretcher in the Henderson Center and everyone started clapping. I'm glad I woke up."
Then came a nightmare of a trip to El Paso, Texas, on Jan. 12 to play UTEP.
"My right knee swelled up on the plane," said Goff of the commercial flight. "I couldn't even bend it. It reached the point I just had to lay on my bed because I couldn't walk. But Tom (trainer Tom Belmaggio) did an excellent job of icing me and keeping the swelling down."
Surprisingly, Goff actually managed to play 13 minutes.
But the injury odyssey wasn't over.
"Then, they found out I have the beginnings of a stress fracture in my left foot," said Goff with a weary smile. "And that's the foot I jump off of because of my right knee. So, I'm all messed up down below."
What's worse, the only cure for a stress fracture is rest.
Goff is hoping that respite won't be available anytime soon because No. 9 seed Marshall plays No. 8 Tulane at 9:30 p.m., Wednesday, in the Conference USA tournament at the BOK Center in Tulsa, Okla.
"The pain is every day," said Goff. "I've just had to learn to play through it. I walk around in a (protective) boot when I'm not practicing or playing."
Despite that, Goff still is playing the best basketball of his career.
"I've been looking at everything and it has been driving me more," he explained. "I understand I should be playing better and helping my team win games. I'm trying to play my game and fly around. That's what I do best."
Just ask East Carolina.
Or, perhaps, Tulane if Rob Goff has his way Wednesday night.
Don't be surprised if he does.
Chuck Landon is a sports columnist for The Herald-Dispatch. Contact him at 304-526-2827 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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