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Chuck Landon: Both Herd teams feel faint near finish line

Nov. 17, 2012 @ 11:00 PM

It's contagious.

Marshall's football team can't finish a game and, now, the Herd men's basketball team can't, either.

First, the football team takes a three-touchdown lead over Houston, 31-17, with only 2:29 left in the third quarter Saturday at Edwards Stadium.

Safe lead, right?

Guess again.

Despite playing without starting quarterback David Piland and virtually minus star running Charles Sims, Houston promptly outscored Marshall 24-3 to tie the game, 41-41, with only 1:18 remaining.

Talk about a death wish.

Was Charles Bronson coaching the Herd?

Marshall did manage to eke out a win that should have been a sure thing, however, when place-kicker Justin Haig scraped a 45-yard field goal through the goal posts with seven seconds remaining to give the Herd a 44-41 win.

No such luck for MU's basketball team.

The Herd led South Dakota State, 77-72, with only 20.1 seconds left, but two Jackrabbit 3-pointers and one Herd missed front end of the bonus later, Marshall lost, 78-77, in the 2K Sports Classic Saturday in Hempstead, N.Y.

Two games. Two sports. Two non-finishes.

What are these athletes majoring in -- unfinished furniture manufacturing?

Apparently, that's the unvarnished truth.

Perhaps, the basketball team will take a correspondence course from the Homer Formby Institute and learn something about finishing.

But the football team?

There might be no hope.

In the last two home games of the season, Marshall had a 31-7 lead over Memphis and a 38-17 lead over Houston but squandered both margins so magnanimously, the Herd was outscored a combined 45-3 to let both opponents back into the game.

Obviously, the Herd learned nothing from the Memphis misadventure.

"I don't have any answer," said a baffled Jordan Jeffries, MU's starting left offensive tackle. "All I know is as an offense we've got to score every time. In the first half we did that, but in the second half. ..."

After intermission, Marshall's offense came up empty on three of its first four possessions and settled for field goals on its final two possessions.

That's correct, the Herd scored only one touchdown in the second half.

That's what allowed Houston to rally and push Marshall to the brink of losing a game it should have won handily.

"We have to put the game away," said Jeffries. "We let them hang around and hang around until they start feeling confident that they can play with us.

"We have to step on their throat. We have to end the game."

Instead, the Herd came as unhinged as. ... well, as Jeffries left knee brace.

"I don't know what happened," said Jeffries, who used his cell phone to take a photo of his demolished knee brace. "At one point, I looked down and the hinge on the outside of my left brace was just gone."

Much like Marshall's lead.

"We have to find a way to finish games," said Marshall coach Doc Holliday. "The way that game was at halftime, we have to finish it.

"It's a win. We're happy to get it. It's better than the alternative. But I wish we'd taken care of business better. You've got to learn to finish.

"You've got to find a way."

So far, Marshall has dodged that bullet against Rice, Memphis and Houston. But all three of those teams have losing records.

That won't be the case when the 5-6 Herd takes on East Carolina Friday in Greenville, N.C., with bowl eligibility on the line.

That means Marshall better figure out a way to finish.

Is there a pill for that infectious disease?

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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