Ben Fields: Thundering Herd stung, stunned by loss
Following the Marshall Thundering Herd's loss to Tulsa the players looked stunned, at a loss at how they had come so close to victory yet again only to come up short in the end.
Tulsa took a 45-38 victory from Marshall.
"(Kevin) Grooms and I were just looking at the stat sheet, trying to figure out how this happened," said MU quarterback Rakeem Cato. "There is nobody in college football that can stop us. We're beating ourselves every week. We just have to get over that hump."
The Herd had two chances at the end of the game in Tulsa territory to tie or take the lead from the Golden Hurricane, and turned the ball over on downs both times.
Marshall was in similar situations against Ohio and Purdue, and the buzz word in the Shewey Athletic Building after this most recent disappointment was "finish."
"At the end of the game, we have to find a way to get it done," head coach Doc Holliday said. "When your number's called, you have to make the play, and we didn't do that.
"It's all about winning football games, and here at Marshall, we expect to win those games. To get where we want to go, we have to go beat the best teams, and on that side of (Conference USA) that's probably Tulsa."
Grooms, a freshman running back, finished with 71 rushing yards, and a touchdown. Cato had 391 passing yards and three touchdowns.
But it's a replay of the same story for Marshall. The Herd can move the ball, and the defense can make plays when they have to, but Marshall has yet to put together a game when all of the parts are working well enough to get the win.
"We know we're better," Grooms said. "It's frustrating. With the (loss), it hurts. We have to come together and get better.
"They took a kickoff back (for a touchdown), and it's just like, what else can happen? Every week it's something new. We have to put all the phases together and get a win."
FOR THE FANS: Cato isn't just frustrated about the loss from a team perspective. He said the team has to get a win for the fans.
"We need to get one for the people out there," Cato said. "They don't have to come to our games. They don't. We're doing this for them. We're playing for the 'M' on the sides of our helmets. Sooner or later, we have to win. We have to win for the people."
TRIFECTA IN THE 3RD: Tulsa scored in all three phases of the game in the third quarter. The Golden Hurricane got a defensive score on a 2-yard run from Alex Singleton, a fumble return touchdown by Dwight Dobbins and a 95-yard kickoff return TD by Trey Watts. Marshall hadn't given up a kickoff return for a touchdown since Sept. 4, 2011, when Tavon Austin of West Virginia University returned one 100 yards.
SPEAKING OF SINGLETON: The 260-pound bulldozer in Tulsa's three-back rotation carried the ball for 94 yards and three touchdowns against the Herd, bringing his total on the season to 11 TDs. Saturday's effort marked the fifth time in Singleton's career at Tulsa that he has scored three touchdowns in a game.
The most damaging score came on a fourth-and-one in the first quarter, when the big back broke through Marshall's line for a 48-yard run to the end zone.
GET IT TO GATOR: MU tight end Gator Hoskins followed his three-touchdown effort at Purdue last week with a 72-yard catch for a score in the third quarter Saturday. It is Marshall's longest play from scrimmage so far in the 2012 season.
A SERIES OF UNUSUAL EVENTS: On a Marshall possession early in the third quarter, Hoskins made a catch and came up tangling with a Tulsa defender. Hoskins was punched in the face, but the official assessed the MU tight end with a 15-yard penalty.
On the next play, Aaron Dobson fumbled the football and Tulsa returned it 11 yards for a score.
The snap for the extra point was bobbled, and MU's D.J. Hunter scooped the ball up and returned it to the end zone for two points for Marshall.
It was the first time the Herd had returned a point after touchdown for two points since Donald Brown did it against UTEP on Oct. 30, 2010.
BYE WEEK: Many of MU's players said they will take the coming bye week to look at film, fix the mistakes that have plagued them so far, and just improve their play overall.
"It starts in practice," safety Okechukwu Okoroha said.
Okoroha said the team is solid, but has to make the transition from being close to winning games.
"We're right there," he said. "All these games we lost, except the first one, we could have walked away with a W.
A lot of things in practice need to be cleaned up and it will show up in the game."
Safety Dominque LeGrande came back to the word "finish."
"It's not how you start, it's how you finish," he said. "And that's what we have to focus on in the games. It's finishing, finishing, finishing.
"We've got the bye-week to correct the little things. It's the best time and it has to happen. Everybody coming together, everybody all in."
Ben Fields is a reporter for The Herald-Dispatch. Contact him at 304-526-2759 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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