Of the Herd's first nine possessions, eight were futile and the other was a 2-yard touchdown drive. With 5:23 left in the third quarter, necessity forced the Herd into throwing and, hey, it worked. In those final 20 minutes, Cato was 13 of 18 for 156 yards.
Cato finished with a 214 passing yards and the team gained 337 total, both season lows. This coming against a defense that, even with Burdette, has been shredded several times.
"It took us longer than it should have to adjust to that," said tackle Jordan Jeffries. "They did drop eight, and then we run the ball and rushing three turned into blocking six or seven or eight. We came in and made adjustments at halftime, but we just dug ourselves too big a hole [31-7] to come out of."
If an offense needs a half and then some to adjust to defensive wrinkles, I'm guessing the coaches lost the chess match, much like Snyder's staff lost it in the 2008 UAB game.
But that is tolerable compared to the Herd's general flatness. Late in the first half, I thought I saw about five dozen white-clad zombies on the far sideline. The body language spoke volumes.
To which I ask: How does that happen?
This wasn't a throwaway game. A win would have put the Herd in good position to take another game and land in a bowl. But now the Herd must win twice, including the season finale at East Carolina, Conference USA's third-best team.
The Herd rallied from 4-6 last season, but I don't think Marshall fans are clinging to optimism on that note. The fan base was deflated by the 54-17 loss Oct. 27 against Central Florida, and surely isn't happier now.
Here's the little bit of good news I can offer: The Herd (4-6, 3-3) faces Houston (4-6, 3-3) at noon Saturday at Joan C. Edwards Stadium, and these are not the same Cougars that flogged MU 63-28 a year ago. On Saturday, they were hammered 41-7 by visiting Tulsa, getting outgained 505-262.
With Case Keenum long gone, Houston leads the league with 31 turnovers, nine coming in a 72-42 loss at Southern Methodist. The Cougars have yielded 196 points in their last four games.
Historically, teams from Texas are 0-for-8 in Huntington. Houston tumbled hard in 2008, losing 37-23 in a game that wasn't that close. Marshall led 37-9 after three quarters.
When did that game fall on MU's schedule? Right after the loss to UAB, funny enough. Is that a good omen for this Herd team?
After the most inexcusable loss in his 35-game tenure, Holliday needs a good omen.
Reach Doug Smock at 304-348-5130, by email at dougsm...@wvgazette.com or follow him at twitter.com/dougsmock.