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MU Notebook: Fourth downs a concern for Herd

Nov. 04, 2012 @ 11:36 PM

As linebacker Cortez Carter sacked Memphis quarterback Jacob Karam to essentially end a comeback attempt by the Tigers, the Marshall sidelines set out in jubilation.

It is still not known whether it was due to the Herd sneaking out a win or simply because the team finally got a fourth-down stop.

Carter's sack was the only time that Marshall stopped a fourth-down conversion during the 38-28 win over Memphis.

The Tigers were 6-of-7 on fourth down on the evening.

"They just made plays," Marshall coach Doc Holliday said. "They made them and we didn't."

Failing to make plays on fourth down has been a problem for the Herd all season long.

Marshall ranks 111th nationally in fourth-down conversion defense with opponents converting 13-of-18 opportunities this season.

Even though it didn't cost the Herd in this game, it is a cause for concern.

Fourth-down conversions did cost the Herd earlier this season in a loss to Tulsa and enabled Rice to forge an overtime session after the Owls were one fourth-and-10 away from being defeated by two scores in regulation.

Defensive players said the lack of getting off the field on fourth down is getting frustrating.

"You spend your time trying to get them off the field, then when you do, they come up with a play and you have to stay on the field," Marshall defensive end Jeremiah Taylor said. "We have to do a better job of getting off the field in those spots."

WE GOT BALL: Marshall extended its streak of starting the game with the ball to nine-straight games after receiving the opening kickoff on Saturday.

Unfortunately for the Herd, that has not translated to early leads.

Marshall has scored just 10 points on opening drives this season and has not gotten any points on an opening drive since scoring a touchdown on the opening drive of the 27-24 loss to Ohio on Sept. 15.

THE 500 CLUB: Marshall quarterback Rakeem Cato finished the game 34-of-44 for 341 yards on Saturday.

The 34 completions give him 500 for his Marshall career, which places him sixth all-time in Herd history.

The other Marshall quarterbacks to accomplish the feat?

Chad Pennington (1,026), Byron Leftwich (939), Michael Payton (689), Todd Donnan (542) and Carl Fodor (521).

Grant Traylor is a sports writer for The Herald-Dispatch. He can be reached by email at gtraylor@herald-dispatch.com or by phone at 304-526-2759. Follow him on Twitter (@GrantTraylor).

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