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Slow start undoes Herd again

Dec. 08, 2013 @ 12:00 AM

HOUSTON -- Marshall's fans have been down this road before.

Four times, to be exact.

Every time the Thundering Herd played an away game against a quality football opponent this season, the faithful hoped Marshall finally would post that one quality, marquee road victory.

And every time Marshall turned into road-kill instead of road-victor.

It happened again Saturday during a 41-24 defeat to Rice in the Conference USA championship game.

The common thread?

A slow start.

Marshall was tied, 7-7, at the end of the first quarter in a 34-31 loss to Ohio. The Herd trailed Virginia Tech, 14-7, after one quarter and, then, lost, 29-21, in triple overtime. MU trailed Middle Tennessee State, 14-7, after one period and lost, 51-49.

And here Saturday?

Marshall trailed Rice, 14-0, at the end of the first quarter.

Is it any wonder all four of Marshall's losses occurred on the road?

"We were down, 14-0," said star slot receiver Tommy Shuler. "They started off fast and we started slow. When we start slow it's not good for us. We came out slow and that's not good on the road."

So, why did Marshall come out slow in the C-USA championship game of all events?

"It seemed like they wanted it more," said Shuler.

Guess where the Military Bowl will be played?

On the road in Annapolis, Md.

Uh, oh.

NO SWAG: As feared, Marshall's standout cornerback Darryl "Swag" Roberts didn't play against Rice.

Roberts seriously sprained his left ankle during the Herd's win over East Carolina on Nov. 29. Although he didn't practice during game week, Roberts was dressed for the championship game.

But his left ankle was heavily taped.

That meant senior cornerback Derrick Thomas made his ninth career start in two seasons. Thomas had five tackles, 0.5 tackles for loss and one pass breakup, but was flagged for a pass interference penalty.

"We missed Swag a whole lot," said fellow corner Monterius Lovett. "We needed everybody."

FACE THE MUSIC: Monterius Lovett is known as a lockdown cornerback. But he also proved he is a standup guy during post-game interviews.

When asked about Rice's Luke Turner throwing a 35-yard touchdown pass on a halfback option play to wide receiver Donte Moore, who was at least 10 yards behind Lovett, he didn't blink, bail or hesitate.

"I just didn't do my job," he said evenly. "That's on me. I had my eyes in the wrong place."

BIG-TIME QUOTE: Marshall quarterback Rakeem Cato has a habit of reducing scenarios to simplest terms.

He did it again here Saturday.

"Big-time players make big-time plays in big-time games," said Cato. "We didn't."

Enough said.

BLACK WEEKEND: Everyone knows about "Black Friday."

But Huntington area sports fans endured a black Friday and a black Saturday this weekend.

First, Wayne High School lost its bid to win a third consecutive Class AA football state championship, losing 14-13 to Bridgeport Friday night in the Super Six in Wheeling.

Next, Huntington High lost in the Class AAA state title game, 9-7, to Martinsburg on Saturday afternoon.

And, finally, Marshall completed the losing trifecta by falling to Rice, 41-24, in the C-USA championship game.

Phew.

What an awful weekend.

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