Just like they dreamed
HUNTINGTON -- It's the dream scenario that every football player played out in their head 1,000 times growing up.
Their team is down a score with the ball and a chance to win with just a little time remaining.
It's time to make the play. Those scenarios begin to creep into the head of athletes as young players, but there's nothing like reality.
For several Marshall University players, those boyhood dreams became reality Saturday when the Thundering Herd drove 67 yards in nine plays to set up Justin Haig's 41-yard field goal as time expired to earn a 24-23 win over Florida Atlantic.
Offensive lineman Clint Van Horn gave a first-hand account of exactly what that final drive was like at field level.
Marshall got the ball with no timeouts left and 2:06 remaining on the clock.
Van Horn noticed something different in the huddle as the offense prepared to take the field.
"We were on the sideline before the drive and the defense was in our huddle," Van Horn said. "They were trying to get us fired up. That gets your juice going. Everybody is wired. You're tired, but you somehow find the adrenaline because the moment of the situation.
"No one was going to accept a loss. Everyone was on the sideline saying 'We're not going to lose. We want this more than them. This means more for us.' That translated on the field to how we finished the game."
At right tackle for the final drive, Van Horn remembers exactly what it was like as the adrenaline hit him.
He said one of the most difficult things is being patient and not jumping the snap count because he was ready to fire off the line and hit the defender in front of him.
"Especially when they are calling audibles and changing plays and stuff, you're just like, 'Aww, c'mon man. Let's go. I'm ready to go,'" Van Horn said.
Center Chris Jasperse echoed Van Horn's sentiments of trying to get off the ball quickly, yet maintaining poise to not pick up a penalty under pressure.
"I'm ready to get off the ball," Jasperse said. "I'm not wanting to get teed off on. In that situation, you can't make any mistakes because that will really cost the team. You have to sit in and focus in and not jump."
While Van Horn and Jasperse were on the field, the scenario was a bit different for defensive end Alex Bazzie, who was part of a defense that did its job by getting the offense a last chance.
Still, the game is out of their hands as they stood along the sideline and watched the offense go to work.
Bazzie said the defense never wavered in its confidence of the offense and special teams to get the win for the team.
"When we saw the two minutes on there, we knew that was enough time because we've been against that fast-tempo offense during practice and we know what it feels like," Bazzie said. "Looking at FAU, we were like 'Man, we feel sorry for you guys because this is about to get hectic' We knew (quarterback Rakeem) Cato and those guys were coming for them."
With poise and some clutch plays -- a long run by Cato, a circus catch at the sideline by Gator Hoskins and an even better catch by 5-foot-7 Devon Smith who went up and pulled in a jump ball for a 35-yard gain -- the Herd was in position for the ultimate test.
That test? A last-second field goal to win the game.
Just six seconds remained on the clock as Haig trotted out to line up his kick.
A pair of timeouts by FAU coach Carl Pelini added to the build-up and nerves surrounding the game's final play.
Van Horn, who plays right guard on the field goal unit, said lining up for that final snap was something he'll never forget.
"I couldn't hear a thing, but luckily for me, I'm a right guard on field goal, so I can see the ball," Van Horn said. "They said they couldn't hear, either. If I couldn't hear, there's no way they could hear the snap count.
"What was going through my mind was that I hope these guys communicate because if we get a penalty, it's a 10-second run-off and the game is over. There were only six seconds left."
Undaunted, Matt Cincotta uncorked a perfect snap to Blake Frohnapfel, who provided the perfect hold for Haig, who uncorked the perfect kick in behind the perfect blocking of the offensive front ahead of him.
And as the ball sailed through the uprights, Haig lifted off his helmet and shushed the crowd of 19,760 -- the second-largest ever at FAU.
The only sounds heard were the heartbeats of the players as they left the field.
You know -- the type of quiet experienced when a person is walking through their dreams.
Herd agrees to delay Louisville game
HUNTINGTON -- Marshall University agreed to move its home football game against Louisville to 2016 from 2014 to accommodate the Cardinals' change in scheduling requirements with a move to the Atlantic Coast Conference. Louisville joins the ACC in July 2014.
The game will be played on Sept. 24, 2016. The original date was Sept. 27, 2014. A Marshall news release said a replacement for the 2014 date will be announced.
-- The Herald-Dispatch
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