Marshall establishing pattern in losses
HUNTINGTON -- Another week, same story.
That's pretty much the reverberating theme surrounding Marshall University's 35-14 loss to UCF in a Conference USA football game Wednesday in Joan C. Edwards Stadium.
The loss droped Marshall to 1-5 on the season and 0-2 in C-USA.
Of the five losses, four have come with the opposition jumping out to a 14-0 lead and fending off the Thundering Herd from there.
The struggles haven't been confined to any one area. Instead, each area has factored into another and resulted in several beatings.
"We have to play better in all phases," Marshall head coach Doc Holliday said. "We have to work to get better as a football team and we will."
Simply put, Marshall's problems begin as soon as the game gets under way.
On the offensive side of the ball, the Herd does not have an opening possession lasting more than three minutes through six games. That wouldn't necessarily be a bad statistic if the team was putting points on the board, but that has happened just once -- the score coming against West Virginia.
Move to the defensive side of the football and opponents have averaged a nine-play, 51-yard drive to begin the game while scoring on five of six opening possessions.
The only contest in which the opposition did not score on its first possession was the Herd's lone win of the season -- a 24-23 victory over Ohio.
It has almost been a cookie-cutter scenario in which Herd losses have played out, sans the overtime loss to West Virginia.
First, the opponent gets the lead as stated with the above statistics.
Then, Marshall has trouble establishing the run and sustaining drives, which puts the defense on the field for long periods of time.
The Herd gets down two scores, forcing it to abandon the run altogether and try to claw back through the air.
The opposing defense starts bringing pressure at the one-dimensional Marshall offense, which disrupts timing of Herd quarterbacks and leads to turnovers and/or empty possessions.
No better example of the latter could be seen Wednesday night.
A long kickoff return set up UCF's 18-yard scoring drive which put the Knights up 21-7.
Down two scores and with virtually no rushing attack, the Herd was forced to go to the air.
Fans knew it was coming, players knew it was coming and certainly, UCF coach George O'Leary knew it was coming.
O'Leary sent pressure at Herd quarterback Brian Anderson repeatedly and forced him to throw off his back foot in a steady rain. The end result was a 42-yard interception return for a touchdown by A.J. Bouye.
It was a seen familiar to both teams. The interception for a touchdown was the fourth one thrown by Anderson on the season and the third that UCF has returned for a score.
Backup Eddie Sullivan didn't fare much better.
His first pass was a quick out that wide receiver Aaron Dobson turned into an 86-yard touchdown, but Sullivan finished just 2-of-7 while also facing pressure.
"On every level, you need to establish a running game," Sullivan said. "We need to get that rolling."
Marshall's rushing attack had only 37 yards on 20 carries while Sullivan and Anderson combined to finish just 4-of-16 in the second half.
It added up to just two first downs in the last 30 minutes.
And it added up to the same ol' story -- a disappointing loss.