HUNTINGTON — Sometimes, a half yard means everything in football.
Just ask Marshall head coach Charles Huff, who has experienced the gamut of emotions from a half yard in a seven-day stretch.
One half-yard mark-off cost his team an onside kick recovery at Middle Tennessee.
On Saturday, a half yard was the difference in Old Dominion’s Nick Rice hitting a stadium-record-tying 58-yard field goal to win it at the end of regulation.
After Rice’s kick was just short, the Herd found a way to earn a 20-13 overtime win for Homecoming.
“Last week, we ended up on the short end — half a yard short, right — with the onside kick,” Huff said. “Ebbs and flows of the season, man. This week, we ended up on the right end.”
While the results were two extremely different emotions, the similarities in which the Herd got there are striking.
For the fourth straight week, Huff had a game come to the wire that, in reality, probably should’ve been handled well before the final minutes.
“Hopefully, we can learn from the two scenarios where they come up a half-yard short this week and we came up a half-yard short last week,” Huff said. “What is the reason? Mistakes, penalties, turnovers, issues again. Hopefully, we can learn.”
Huff’s first year has been a test of resolve over the last month with the Herd enduring a three-game losing streak in which one or two plays made or one or two fewer mistakes on either side of the football results in a win.
It was nearly the same scenario on Saturday as Marshall did not score a touchdown in the game until 33 seconds remained when Grant Wells hit Willie Johnson for a 52-yard touchdown on a virtual Hail Mary between Johnson and Xavier Gaines, who each had man coverage.
Even after the improbable touchdown, Marshall had to sweat it out after a good return and targeting penalty on the kickoff allowed Old Dominion to get into field goal range for Rice’s long-distance attempt.
At that point, it’s a helpless feeling for Huff.
“At that point in the game, when you have that many mistakes and you play that sloppy, you’re at the mercy of the football gods, man,” Huff said.
Luckily for the Herd, the football gods smiled on them for Homecoming, which helped them end the three-game skid and get their record even at 3-3 overall and 1-1 in Conference USA.
With the parity in the East Division, Marshall is still tied for second place in the division with only Charlotte currently ahead of them.
As Huff looks to close the gap on a championship, he knows it is on his team to keep the momentum as they hit the road in a short week against North Texas.
In each of the last four games, Marshall had opportunities to put the game away early, but mistakes and turnovers took points off the board.
Marshall’s talent level is such that they can beat anyone on their schedule.
The Herd’s lack of ball security has proven that they can also lose to anyone on the schedule.
It is part of the half yard of separation for the Herd between being mediocre and being elite in Conference USA.