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Chuck Landon: Failures in running game cost the herd

Sep. 16, 2012 @ 12:04 AM

Anybody know how to straighten a bent linch-pin?

If so, contact Doc Holliday.

Marshall’s head football coach and his team need help in that department after losing a crucial game to Ohio, 27-24, Saturday night before 33,436 fans in Edwards Stadium.

With consecutive away games looming against Rice and then at Purdue, besides three of the next four games on the road, beating Ohio at home was indeed a linch-pin for Marshall’s 2012 season.

But now that it’s bent?

Well, maybe pliers will help.

Or, perhaps, a vise.

Or maybe just maybe a running game on offense and a defense that could stop the run might straighten that linch-pin.

Ah, I think we’re onto something.

While losing two of its first three games in a season of high expectations, Marshall hasn’t performed either run duty with any success.

Offensively, the Herd is throwing the ball all over the sandlot, but its running game has been reduced to three yards and a cloud of Field Turf pellets.

Against Ohio, Marshall’s running attack — and I use that word in jest — produced a meager 59 yards on 22 carries for a paltry 2.7 yards per attempt.

In fact, Marshall’s coaching staff so adamantly gave up on any semblance of a rushing game, MU running backs had only 16 carries in the entire contest.

The result was an unbalanced offense that had nearly a 3-to-1 pass to rush ratio.

That’s not a recipe for winning football.

“We had a lot of runs called and he (quarterback Rakeem Cato) ended up throwing,” said Holliday. “At some point, you’ve got to be able to do both.”

That point was made Saturday against Ohio. And it will occur again next Saturday at Rice and the Saturday after that at Purdue.

Possessing the ability to run the football on offense is a basic principle of football. It is a tenet. So, is the capability of stopping the run on defense.

That is Marshall’s problem.

The Herd can do neither.

In three games, opposing running attacks are averaging nearly 100 yards more than Marshall. After Ohio’s 199 yards on 52 carries, opponents are averaging 224.7 yards per game (122-674) and an eye-opening 5.5 yards per carry.

Marshall is countering with only 125.3 yards per game (115-376) and just 3.3 yards per attempt.

A differential of that magnitude leads to one outcome.

Defeats.

That’s why Marshall lost to WVU in the season-opener and it’s also why the Herd lost to nearby rival Ohio on Saturday night. Marshall’s running game simply doesn’t fit its talent conceptually and the Herd’s running defense obviously is soft.

Those are two daunting deficiencies as Marshall heads out on the road for three of its next four games.

Particularly since Marshall hasn’t exactly been a “Road Warrior” the last three seasons. The Herd’s record is just 3-11 when it ventures away from the friendly confines of Edwards Stadium.

Again, that’s why the Ohio game was such a linch-pin.

Even veteran Bobcats coach Frank Solich knew it.

“We pride ourselves on going on the road and being a good football team,” said Solich during his post-game press conference. “My experience is if you only win at home, you’re just going to be a .500 team.”

That’s a sage observation.

And the Herd needs to take it to heart.

That means revamping an ineffective running attack and finding some way, anyway to stop the run on defense.

Starting today.

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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