Chuck Landon: Second-guessing the game
Welcome to “Second-Guess Tuesday.”
The topic is the signature victory that Marshall turned into a forgery defeat with a 29-21 loss in triple overtime to Virginia Tech Saturday in Blacksburg, Va.
Obviously, there are lots of second-guessing opportunities, so let’s begin.
- Was it Virginia Tech’s defensive adjustments or conservative play-calling by Marshall that led to the Herd not scoring after halftime?
Actually, neither one.
Hokies’ defensive coordinator Bud Foster candidly commented, “We made no adjustments.”
Guess who corroborates his remark?
“They didn’t change anything,” said Marshall’s star quarterback. “It was us.”
The reason Marshall was shut out during the second half and three overtimes
is the Herd simply didn’t click like it did during the first half.
“It wasn’t any one thing,” said Cato. “A missed assignment. Not hitting the right hole. A missed block. Not getting enough depth on a route. It was lots of things.”
The bottom line is Marshall didn’t execute as well. That’s why the Herd averaged 5.5 yards per play in the first half, but only 2.3 after intermission. In the first half, Marshall had 205 yards total offense on 37 plays and did something not even mighty Alabama could accomplish — score three touchdowns on Virginia Tech during the first half.
But after intermission, Marshall managed just 116 yards on 50 plays.
This one game showed both sides of Marshall’s offense. It proved just how good the Herd can be when it’s clicking. But it also displayed how small the margin of error is.
- Everyone should stop asking when Kevin Grooms is going to be healthy and start realizing Marshall has a quality running back in Essray Taliaferro.
The 5-foot-8, 183-pound senior proved that unequivocally by accomplishing a notable distinction. His bench-mark? Taliaferro eclipsed the 100-yard rushing barrier against the Hokies’ renowned rush defense.
That’s impressive, folks.
The little workhorse had 26 carries for 105 yards and he rarely left the field except for the two times he was tackled so hard his helmet flew off. That’s because he’s a complete player. Since Taliaferro is also Marshall’s best blocking running back, the Herd needed him against Virginia Tech’s ferocious pass rush.
Taliaferro also proved he’s the best tackler among the backs. When Cato fumbled during the second overtime and Tech’s Derrick Hopkins recovered, it was Taliaferro who ran the 6-0, 311-pound defensive tackle down from behind after a 40-yard return.
“My main goal was just to get him to the ground,” said Taliaferro, who was giving up 128 pounds. “I just threw my head into him as hard as I could and he fell easy.”
- It’s time to give true freshman Justin Hunt some playing time at X receiver.
Devon Smith is incredibly quick and a great deep threat, but he’s tiny and fragile. Davonte Allen looks the part, but the perfectly thrown pass in the end zone on the final play of the game went right through his hands.
MU already has burned Hunt’s redshirt.
It’s time to use him.
- This might have been Cato’s most impressive performance.
The statistics don’t indicate it, but stats aren’t the true measure of a quarterback. What I noticed was his unflappable poise and composure, his lack of intimidation and his competitiveness.
Cato did whatever he had to do.
And nobody can second-guess that.
Chuck Landon is a sports columnist for The Herald-Dispatch. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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