Chuck Landon: Holliday, Herd can learn from this defeat
COLUMBUS — Doc Holliday said he would know more about his team after Marshall’s first game.
He was right.
Now, Marshall’s first-year head coach knows his Herd can’t begin to compete with an upper echelon FBS program such as Ohio State.
The No. 2 ranked Buckeyes did whatever they wanted, whenever they wanted during an utterly dominating 45-7 victory over Marshall here Thursday night before 105,040 fans at Ohio Stadium.
The hope was this Marshall team would fare better than the Herd squads that got pummeled by Virginia Tech, 52-10, in 2009, and Wisconsin, 51-14, in 2008.
We hoped in vain.
Instead, the beat — and the beatings — went on.
To be honest, Marshall didn’t even belong on the same field as the Buckeyes. And I suppose Holliday needed to know that. Now, he does.
What’s worse, when Ohio State wasn’t out-athleting, out-muscling and out-talenting Marshall, the Herd was self-destructing.
That is a very, very bad combination.
Here’s something else Doc knows about his team now. The special teams are a mess.
There were seven kicking game mishaps in the first half alone. It started on the game’s opening kickoff when Andre Booker coughed up a fumble after being hit at the 22-yard line.
Even when Booker atoned for his fumble with a 63-yard kickoff return, the Herd couldn’t take advantage of it. Instead, Tyler Warren pushed a 41-yard field goal attempt wide left.
Then, there’s the punt team. It was flagged for penalties on Marshall’s first three punts. It started with a delay of game penalty. Then, on the next two punts Marshall was penalized twice for having five players lined up in the backfield.
Besides all that, punter Kase Whitehead had a very poor game, managing just a 36.9-yard average.
But enough on the special teams. Holliday also knows now that the offense and defense have a lot of work to do.
Marshall’s wide receivers had a terrible day, dropping pass after pass. It often appeared the wideouts and Marshall quarterbacks Brian Anderson and Ed Sullivan weren’t on the same page.
The Herd managed only one good possession in its new spread offense, driving 71 yards in 13 plays while taking 6:16 off the clock. But even that possession ended with a Martin Ward fumble.
“Marshall is doing a transition away from what they used to do,” said Ohio State coach Jim Tressel during his post-game press conference. “I don’t think they were ready for our defense tonight.”
Marshall’s defense wasn’t ready for Ohio State’s big-play offense, either. It allowed a 40-yard run and a 65-yard scoring jaunt by running back Brandon Saine. And quarterback Terrelle Pryor connected with Dane Sanzenbacher for a 65-yard score.
Far too often, it appeared Marshall’s safeties were out of position.
The good news is this game gives Holliday a lot of videotape to evaluate both his players and his coaches. It will be a learning tool.
It had better be because arch-rival WVU comes to Huntington on Sept. 10 and the Herd will have to play much better to compete with the Mountaineers.
And, yes, Doc knows that, too.
“Unacceptable,” said Holliday of Marshall’s performance Thursday night.
Tressel tried to be a gracious winner, saying, “In Marshall’s defense, a new staff coming in and playing a veteran team. … that was a tough draw for them.”
But Holliday doesn’t want to hear that.
That’s the one thing he already knew before this game.
Chuck Landon is a sports columnist for The Herald-Dispatch. Call him at 304-526-2827. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.