Lopsided loss to Tulsa still lingers
HUNTINGTON -- It was a game every Marshall University football player wanted to forget, but none could.
The only thing whipping harder than the wind on Nov. 12, 2011, in Tulsa, Okla., was the Tulsa Golden Hurricane whipping Marshall on the field.
It was a 59-17 loss that dropped the Thundering Herd to 4-6 on the season and pushed the team to a breaking point.
As Marshall prepares for its 3:30 p.m. Homecoming contest against Tulsa on Saturday at Joan C. Edwards Stadium, memories of last season's painful trek to Tulsa linger.
"The thing I remember most about that game is that when one thing went wrong, we turned on each other a little bit," Marshall defensive end Jeremiah Taylor said. "We had guys injured that game, things just kept piling on one after another and we just couldn't recover."
The game itself was wild in nature.
The wind stayed steady at beyond 20 mph with gusts upward of 40 mph. It was so strong that Tulsa won the toss and deferred the kickoff in both halves so the Golden Hurricane could have the wind advantage.
It worked, as Marshall's passing offense was derailed in the strong wind. The Herd was forced to go one-dimensional on first and second down, running the ball with Travon Van and Tulsa loaded up the box to stop the run.
Once forced into passing situations on third-and-long, the Golden Hurricane defense teed off, sending the house on several occasions and eventually knocking out Marshall starter A.J. Graham.
It ended up being Graham's last snaps in a Marshall uniform as Rakeem Cato took over and started the rest of the season.
Cato remembers the game well.
"We couldn't run anything," Cato said. "Their whole defense had the system. They had a quarterback that was here the year before who went there as a grad assistant (Press Taylor, quarterbacks coach). He knew the whole system and they knew everything we were doing. They were calling it out as a defense when we'd line up."
The result was a 42-3 halftime deficit that left the Herd reeling both on the field and on the sideline.
Marshall was coming off a bye week and had defeated UAB, 59-14, in its previous outing.
It certainly wasn't the expected result and the quick change of events got the best of the Herd.
"It was such a bad day for us, man," Marshall wide receiver Aaron Dobson said. "Our players were snapping on each other. Everybody just wasn't vibing out there."
While the game is something players won't forget, it also served as a wake-up call. The Herd followed the loss with three straight wins to end the season, including a 20-10 victory over Florida International in the Beef O'Brady's Bowl.
The results of that 2011 contest mean little to the 2012 season, but it doesn't mean Herd players have exactly pushed it out of their minds.
"We have to make sure that we do our job -- come in and make it miserable for them," Taylor said.
Much like a Thunder-storm.