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MU football notebook: Second quarter crucial to Herd, Southern Miss

Oct. 19, 2012 @ 12:13 AM

Southern Miss and Marshall have found it extremely difficult to finish football games this season.

Combined, the teams come into Saturday's 7 p.m. contest at M.M. Roberts Stadium with two victories between them -- both coming for the Thundering Herd.

And while many people will say finishing comes down to the fourth quarter, it has been the second quarter that has plagued both teams.

In Marshall's four losses, the Herd was outscored 73-31 in the second quarter, and that comes after outscoring Tulsa 14-7 in the loss a week ago, thanks in part to a pair of scores in the final 2:40 of the half.

But in the Herd's two victories, Marshall owns a 28-10 scoring edge in the second quarter.

It's not an attempt to make it too simplistic, but facts are facts.

When Marshall has led at halftime, the team is 2-0.

When the Herd is tied or trails at the break, the record is 0-4.

That makes the minutes heading into the locker room for intermission just as important as those minutes down the stretch -- especially against Southern Miss.

"It helps anywhere you are," Marshall coach Doc Holliday said. "Starting fast in any game helps you, as far as momentum goes. It has been a goal of ours all along to get out of the blocks and start fast. Hopefully, we can do that again Saturday."

Like Marshall, Southern Miss has been dismal in the second quarter of games, being outscored 56-27.

Head coach Ellis Johnson commented that it isn't just the point differential, but also the timing of scores. Many of the opposition's scores against the Golden Eagles have come just before the intermission.

"I think the biggest thing that concerns me now, and some of this might be coincidental, all six ball games, the opponent has gotten the last punch before the half -- all six," Johnson said. "Some of it was right at the half, some of it was a minute or two before, but they've gotten the last hit."

Last week, UCF got a late touchdown run with five seconds left in the first half to take a 17-7 lead into the locker room. Hindsight is 20-20, but had Southern Miss held the Knights to three points, the game doesn't go to overtime and the Golden Eagles celebrate their first win of 2012.

Instead, the late score came back to bite them in a double-overtime loss.

"We've got to find some way to turn that around. We dug ourselves out of it somewhat on Saturday, but that's been putting us in a hole coming into the locker room," Johnson said. "That's a critical time in the game, I think."

Marshall has done its share of the same this season. Against Ohio, the Herd jumped out to a 14-0 lead with a chance to make it a three-score game and break things open, but a stalled drive flipped momentum and Ohio scored 17 unanswered points in the second quarter to take a three-point lead into the break before going on to a win.

It was much of the same at Purdue as quarterback Rakeem Cato threw three interceptions in the second quarter, leading to 21 of the Boilermakers' 28 points in the frame as Purdue took a 42-14 lead into the locker room.

Ohio outscored Marshall 17-0 in the second and won by three.

Purdue outscored Marshall 28-7 in the second and ended up winning by 10.

Notice a pattern?

Expect the game to come down to the final 15 minutes of play as most Conference USA contests do, but keep an eye on that second 15 minutes.

Neither team has a win this year when tied or trailing at the half.

TON OF TACKLES: The old addage is that it's never a good sign when a team's safeties are the leading tacklers for a defense.

Unfortunately for the Herd, that's exactly the case.

Marshall's starting safeties -- strong safety Dominick LeGrande and free safety Okechukwu Okoroha -- have just as many tackles between them (118) as Marshall's three starting linebackers: Devin Arrington, Jermaine Holmes and D.J. Hunter.

LeGrande leads the Herd with 69 tackles while Okoroha is second with 59. Arrington is fourth with 42, Hunter is fifth with 40 and Holmes is sixth with 36.

Grant Traylor is a reporter for The Herald-Dispatch. Contact him at 304-526-2759 or gtraylor@herald-dispatch.com. Follow him on Twitter (@GrantTraylor).

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