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Grant Traylor: Turnovers prove to be Herd's undoing

Oct. 08, 2012 @ 11:35 PM

Marshall football coach Doc Holliday has said many times that whoever wins the turnover battle wins games.

Perhaps that, more than anything, explains the Thundering Herd's 2-4 record.

Statistics don't lie in this instance.

In Marshall's two wins, the Herd had zero turnovers.

In the Herd's four losses, there were 12 turnovers.

"When you are playing to win, you have to take care of the football. You don't turn it over," Holliday said following the loss to Ohio. "If you take care of the football, you will win the majority of the games you play."

It isn't just the fact that Marshall is turning the ball over.

The bigger issue is when and the results from those turnovers.

Marshall opponents have scored six touchdowns and two field goals off of Herd turnovers with another two turnovers coming on the Herd's final series of the game, allowing the opposition to go into the victory formation.

Furthermore, of Marshall's 12 turnovers, opponents have returned four for touchdowns.

Marshall opponents have had a defensive score in three of the four games in which the Herd has turned the ball over this season (remember, the two wins had zero turnovers).

Not only are the turnovers allowing the opposition to score points -- 47 in all so far this season -- but those are also missed opportunities for Marshall to score, which the Herd has proven that it can do well.

The 27-24 loss to Ohio was likely the most telling. Marshall coughed the ball up on three separate occasions with two of those turnovers coming in the final five minutes.

Marshall and Ohio were tied 24-24 with the Herd driving inside the red zone when the ball was ripped from receiver Antavious Wilson and returned 48 yards to set up the game-winning field goal.

On the following drive, the Herd had a chance to tie or win the game, but quarterback Rakeem Cato was intercepted to essentially end the contest.

Against Purdue, 21 of the Boilermakers' 51 points came off of Marshall turnovers with two being interception returns for a touchdown. That is especially magnified when the final margin is 10 points.

Even against West Virginia, the Herd gave up 14 points off turnovers -- one being a 43-yard fumble return for a score and the other being an interception that was returned inside Marshall's 5-yard line that led to another touchdown.

Every turnover is essentially a missed opportunity.

It's a missed opportunity for points, which turns into missed opportunities for victories.

And those missed opportunities for wins turn into missed opportunities for Conference USA championships and could lead to missed opportunities for bowl eligibility, if not remedied.

INTERESTING STAT: Marshall had the football first in all six games this season.

The Herd won the toss in three games and elected to receive while three opposing teams won the coin toss and all deferred.

Out of the six opening possessions, the Herd compiled just 10 points -- a Justin Haig field goal to begin the Western Carolina game and a touchdown to open the loss to Ohio.

SOMETHING HAD TO GIVE: Heading into Saturday's contest, Marshall had won seven consecutive Conference USA home games while Tulsa had won six straight conference road games.

When the Golden Hurricane walked away with a 45-38 win, it was Marshall's first conference loss at home since Oct. 13, 2010 when UCF defeated the Herd 35-14.

Tulsa has now won seven straight on the road. Their last road loss was a 21-18 loss at SMU on Oct. 9, 2010.

Grant Traylor is a reporter for The Herald-Dispatch. Contact him at 304-526-2759 or gtraylor@herald-dispatch.com. Follow him on Twitter (@GrantTraylor).



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