Upset chance slips away
BLACKSBURG, Va. — Things certainly got a little Hokie for Marshall University’s football team Saturday afternoon at Lane Stadium.
After playing brilliantly through three quarters, the Thundering Herd watched repeatedly as breaks went the way of Virginia Tech (3-1) in the final period and overtime. A final Marshall fourth-down pass from Rakeem Cato slipped through the hands of Davonte Allen in the end zone to finish Virginia Tech’s wild 29-21 triple-overtime victory in front of 64,060 fans.
“We all know there are no moral victories at Marshall,” Marshall head coach Doc Holliday said. “We came here to win that football game. Virginia Tech just made one more play at the end than we did.”
The final play epitomized the fourth quarter and extra sessions for the Herd, which was shut out on the scoreboard in the second half and overtimes.
Marshall (2-2) had many opportunities to hand the Hokies a loss on their home field, but several went by the wayside.
Virginia Tech quarterback Logan Thomas scored on a 2-yard run in the third overtime and added the two-point conversion to provide the game-winning score.
While the game came to its end following three overtimes, the Herd will likely look at the first overtime as the biggest chance that got away.
Marshall’s Ra’Shawde Myers got a sack of Thomas to force Ethan Keyserling into a 50-yard field goal attempt that landed well short, giving the Herd a major chance to drive down and win the game.
With the rain picking up, Holliday and the Herd coaching staff opted to rush Essray Taliaferro up the middle three times, which accounted for three total yards.
Marshall kicker Justin Haig then had his 40-yard field goal blocked, keeping the Hokies alive.
“I thought at that point that it was sloppy out there,” Holliday said. “I felt that he had been consistent from the 25-yard line and we felt that he could put us in a position to win the game. Unfortunately, we couldn’t get it done.”
The second overtime also went without points for both teams as Cato fumbled following a sack. Taliaferro saved the game by sprinting downfield to tackle Derrick Hopkins, who was racing for the end zone.
It proved to give Marshall life after Keyserling missed a 32-yard field goal wide right in the torrential downpour of the second overtime.
For a while, it didn’t appear the game would go to an overtime session as both teams had stalemated into a deadlock in the second half.
However, Thomas led the Hokies on a 14-play, 83-yard drive keyed by a pair of fourth-down conversions to tie the contest with 3:09 left. Thomas connected with Willie Byrn for a 2-yard touchdown.
The final fourth-down conversion was gut-wrenching for the Herd as cornerback Darryl Roberts got his hand on a pass into the wide side of the end zone, but the ball deflected right to Byrn for the game-tying score.
“We had the game in our hands,” Marshall nickelback Corey Tindal said. “We just gave it away. We have to come harder and finish these big games.”
Through one half, Marshall appeared on its way to a win. The Herd led 21-14 at halftime after scoring 14 unanswered points in the second quarter.
Much of the credit was to the Herd defense, who consistently stopped Virginia Tech drives and especially did a good job on Thomas early by limiting his ability to get out in running lanes.
Trailing by a touchdown after Thomas’ 2-yard jaunt gave the Hokies a 14-7 lead, Cato drove the Herd 75 yards in seven plays, aided by a pair of face mask penalties by Virginia Tech.
Cato’s 4-yard scoring run capped the drive as he faked a pass to freeze a defender before diving for the pylon to tie the game 14-14.
Following an interception by Herd cornerback Monterius Lovett, Taliaferro used big runs of 19 and 23 yards to set up Cato’s 13-yard scoring strike to Gator Hoskins that gave Marshall its halftime lead.
Cato finished 19 of 41 passing for 228 yards and two touchdowns with two interceptions while also rushing the ball for 46 yards and a score. Taliaferro netted 105 yards on 26 carries, marking the first time Virginia Tech had given up a 100-yard rusher since Rolandan Finch of Boston College did so on Nov. 17, 2012.
While the Herd played well throughout, missed opportunities will haunt Marshall during its bye week.
After the score, Neville Hewitt grabbed his first career interception off a deflected pass to give the Herd possession at Virginia Tech’s 40-yard line with a chance to go up two scores before the break. Marshall ended up going three-and-out.
The same could be said of the second half when Haig missed a 41-yard field goal on the team’s second drive and Kendall Fuller’s interception of Cato ended a 15-play, 58-yard drive when the Herd had chewed up five minutes of clock spanning into the fourth quarter.
Another miscue started the contest for the Herd when Derek DiNardo returned a blocked punt by Kyle Fuller 11 yards to open the scoring just two minutes into the game.
“I think that punt block at the beginning of the game is unacceptable,” Holliday said. “It’s a little ridiculous.”
For Virginia Tech, Thomas hit 18 of 34 passes for 181 yards while rushing for 58 yards and two scores.
Running back Trey Edmunds rushed for 110 yards on 22 carries.
Marshall heads into its bye week with a two-game losing streak after dropping back-to-back close contests with the Hokies and Ohio. The Herd returns to action Oct. 5 at 2 p.m. when UTSA comes to Joan C. Edwards Stadium for Homecoming 2013.
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