Bobcats handle Herd 34-31
ATHENS, Ohio - Marshall's turnover woes at Ohio's Peden Stadium hit a strange new low Saturday night in the Thundering Herd's 34-31 setback.
A crowd of 24,836 - counting the students that dashed to the bars at halftime - saw the Bobcats down the Herd for the third straight time.
Two years after getting routed in a six-turnover debacle on this same gridiron, the Herd spilled the pigskin on the carpet three more times in the first half. The third was one for the blooper reels, and it put Marshall in a perpetually losing battle with the Bobcats and their slick quarterback, Tyler Tettleton.
With five-plus minutes left in the first half, the Bobcats took a 10-7 lead on a 32-yard Matt Green field goal. Fielding the subsequent kickoff was Steward Butler, who had already lost one fumble on a running play. He had trouble fielding the kick, but that wasn't all.
When he turned around to scoop up the loose ball, he unwittingly knocked it into the end zone, setting off a mad dash to the football. Ohio's Toran Davis won that race, recovering it just before he rolled over the end line. The touchdown withstood video review and the Bobcats led 17-7.
With that bulge, Tettleton and Beau Blankenship kept the Herd and Rakeem Cato at arm's length the rest of the night.
Blankenship scored two short touchdowns in the second half, but those only punctuated the story of Tettleton, who reached into his trick bag to snatch a few third downs.
On the opening drive of the second half, he found Chase Cochran for 27 yards down the right sideline, as Cochran snagged it despite decent coverage from Monterius Lovett. That was the second third-down converted on the drive, which put Ohio up 24-10.
Marshall answered with an Essray Taliaferro 3-yard run, but the Bobcats took a 31-17 lead with a marathon drive of 18 plays, 75 yards, that gobbled up 8 minutes, 31 seconds.
That drive could have ended early. Tettleton, who suffered his first two sacks by Marshall, was in deep trouble on the right sideline on third-and-8, but found enough of an opening to toss a quick underhanded pass to Matt Waters. That was good for 10 yards, and Tettleton later converted a tough third-and-4 at the Marshall 4.
The Herd helped out with a pass-interference foul on fourth-and-3 at the MU 33. When Blankenship finished the drive, there was 12:02 left in the game.
Cato had one last highlight, hitting Gator Hoskins with an easy 38-yard pass to cut the lead to 31-24. He motioned the tight end to break his route off and get downfield, and nobody followed him.
The MU defense finally got the stop it needed and regained possession on its 17. But on the very first play, Herd receiver Demetrius Evans slipped on a timing route and defensive back Devin Bass simply waited on Cato's throw for the interception.
The Bobcats iced the game, for all intents, on Green's field goal with 2:46 left. Cato's 1-yard TD run with 29 seconds left set the final score, but the Bobcats recovered the onside kick.
Following Butler's critical gaffe, Cato brought the Herd within 17-10 at halftime with a masterful 2-minute drill from his own 1-yard line. He faced third-and-8, but fired a 33-yard pass to a diving Craig Wilkins to keep the possession going.
On third-and-10 from the Ohio 39, Cato kept the play alive for several seconds, long enough to find Devon Smith streaking toward the goal line. Smith got to the 5 with 6 seconds left, allowing the Herd to call timeout, and then Justin Haig kicked a 22-yard field goal to finish the half.
After Taliaferro fumbled on the Herd's first possession of the game, Ohio took a 7-0 lead on Tettleton's 4-yard pass to tight end Troy Hill. It was Hill's third catch on the 53-yard drive, including a 30-yarder to the Marshall 19.
Marshall survived Butler's first lost fumble when Matt Green missed a 46-yard field goal. The Herd regrouped quickly, driving 72 yards in nine plays to tie the game. Kevin Grooms covered the final 7 yards, gaining a first down at the Ohio 1 and then hurdling a Bobcat defender for the score.
The comedy of errors resumed a few series later when Ohio's Travis Carrie fielded a high, 38-yard punt by Tyler Williams near the 20-yard line. It looked as if MU players thought Carrie would call for a fair catch; instead, the sixth-year cornerback shook the first defender and streaked for a 48-yard return to the Marshall 33.
Tettleton drove the Bobcats to the 6, but James Rouse tracked him down for a sack - the first sack Marshall had recorded in three games against OU's multiple record-holder.
Green kicked a 32-yard field goal, giving the Bobcats a 10-7 lead and setting the stage for Butler's bungled kickoff.
Cato finished 30 of 45 for 366 yards, while Tettleton was 25 of 38 for 266 yards.
Reach Doug Smock at 304-348-5140, firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him at twitter.com/dougsmock.