GREENVILLE, N.C. - The epitaph of Marshall's 2012 football season: The Thundering Herd scored 59 points and lost.
The third year of the Doc Holliday era has come to a close, as has the tenure of defensive coordinator Chris Rippon, who handed in his resignation Saturday. After a season in which Rippon's unit shattered a few unwanted Thundering Herd records, the development surprised nobody.
Rippon's last disaster came in the Herd's 65-59 double-overtime loss Friday at East Carolina, a game that hinged on a 19-yard pass from Shane Carden to Justin Hardy on fourth-and-10. Had the Herd stopped the Pirates on that down, it could have taken a few knees and gone to its second consecutive bowl game. Instead, Carden eventually hit Danny Webster on a 6-yard touchdown pass, tying the game at 52 with 4 seconds left in regulation.
You can pick your malignant milestone from that game, including the fact that Hardy's crossing-route reception was the 19th fourth-down conversion against the Herd in 25 attempts this season, a shocking 76 percent. Over the last five games, that figure was 13 out of 16.
Other numbers underscoring Rippon's downfall:
The result Friday hurled the MU program back across the thin line from mildly successful to struggling. Instead of playing in its second consecutive bowl game, the Herd suffered its second 5-7 season in three years under Holliday.
As painful as that is, the Herd has performed better in these three years than the first three years of previous coach Mark Snyder. Holliday is 17-20 overall and 13-11 in Conference USA play, while Snyder was 12-23 overall from 2005-07, 10-14 in league games.
Record-wise, Snyder's 2007 team scraped the program's bottom at 3-9, and it wasn't hard to figure why. Starting with the season-ending injury to Albert McClellan, the outmanned defense was roughed up for 411 points, yielding 191 rushing yards and 451 total yards per game. The Herd ranked 102nd, 93rd and 107th nationally in those categories.