Chuck Landon: Herd fell for every trick the Tigers tried
If there were a forest growing smack dab in the middle of Edwards Stadium. ...
Marshall wouldn't see it for the trees.
That's why Memphis got away with one form of trickery after another Saturday.
That's why the Tigers ran 23 consecutive plays at one point during the second half.
That's why Memphis scored 21 unanswered points to turn Marshall's seemingly safe 31-7 lead into a tenuous 31-28 margin with 9:56 remaining.
And that's why Marshall had to hold on by its manicures to beat a 1-8 Memphis squad, 38-28, before an announced crowd of 22,041 that came disguised in post-Halloween garb as empty seats in Edwards Stadium.
Maybe that's why Memphis did so much tricking and Marshall did so much treating.
There was an on-side kick that rarely works these days. There was a fake punt that included a jump pass. There were old-school tricks like an unbalanced line.
There was razzle and there was dazzle. There was razzamatazz and all that jazz.
And it all worked.
Why, Memphis did everything but run the ol' Statue of Liberty play. And guess what? It probably would have gone for a touchdown.
It was that kind of game for Marshall.
A game that should have been a laugher with backup quarterback Blake Frohnapfel doing garbage time duties, but instead went right to the wire with starting quarterback Rakeem Cato taking all 71 offensive snaps.
"We thought going in we were going to get that (fakes and trick plays)," said Marshall head coach Doc Holliday. "Not particularly that, but I knew going in we were going to get something in the special teams or offensively that was going to take some shots and create issues for us. ... and we did.
"We have to get better in those areas."
Better? Really? Better?
Any improvement whatsoever would be progress.
Take Memphis' successful on-side kick, for example. It all started when Marshall's Alex Bazzie was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct on the Tigers' 1-yard touchdown pass.
That meant Memphis would kick off from the 50-yard line, which provided the perfect scenario for an on-side kick. Everyone in Edwards Stadium -- even the empty seats -- expected an on-side kick.
Well, except Marshall.
The Herd lined up in it typical kickoff return formation instead of putting the "hands team" on the front line.
Memphis successfully recovered its on-side kick.
Nine plays and 61 yards later, Memphis' Jai Steib rumbled two yards for a touchdown.
A jump pass on a fake punt that would have done Johnny Lujack proud. Memphis punter Tom Hornsey, an Aussie by heritage who is well-versed in Australian Rules Football, waited, waited, waited and, then, delivered a jump pass to upback Bobby McClain.
The Herd was caught with its wallabys down as McClain raced 61 yards to Marshall's 5-yard line. Two plays later, Memphis cut the margin to 31-28.
And suddenly what should have been an easy victory was a nail-biter.
"It was sloppy at times," admitted Holliday.
So sloppy, Marshall actually recovered an accidental on-side kick kicker Justin Haig drilled a squib kick into an unsuspecting Memphis front line.
It was that kind of game. The kind that featured Memphis going 6-for-6 on fourth-down conversions before Marshall finally stopped the Tigers' final try.
Oh, those trees.
Maybe if the leaves fall it will help.
Chuck Landon is a columnist for The Herald-Dispatch. Call him at 304-526-2827 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.