BLACKSBURG, Va. - Weather-wise, it was a lousy day for extra football Saturday afternoon at Lane Stadium. Otherwise, it was a triple-overtime thriller.
But Marshall wasn't as thrilled at the end. When Davonte Allen couldn't hold on to Rakeem Cato's fourth-down pass in the third overtime, Virginia Tech skated away with a 29-21 win. Logan Thomas provided the winning margin with a 2-yard run earlier in that extra period.
After getting hammered by the Hokies four times since 2002, the Thundering Herd program missed a chance at an eyebrow-raising upset. The visitors led 21-14 at halftime and most of the second half, until the Hokies tied it with Thomas' 2-yard touchdown pass to Willie Byrn - a pass Byrn caught despite Darryl Roberts' deflection.
That came on fourth down and would have given Marshall the inside road to victory. Perhaps the wet ball worked against Roberts, sliding straight off his hand instead of changing direction.
"If it were dry," said nickel back Corey Tindal. "If. We'll never know that."
The Herd (2-2) somehow lost this game despite:
"I told them I was proud of them, but we came here to win that football game," said MU coach Doc Holliday. "They played their asses off. They did everything we asked them to do since we came to campus and they never quit."
The Herd started poorly, when its punt protection all but waved the camo-clad rushers to punter Tyler Williams. Kyle Fuller blocked the kick and Derek DiNardo scooped up the ball for an easy touchdown.
It took a couple of possessions, but Cato and company answered after Devon Smith's 19-yard punt return started the Herd at its 49. Eight plays later, Cato found Smith for a 12-yard score that tied it.
When Thomas scored the first of his 2-yard touchdowns to give Tech a 14-7 lead, most of the 64,060 poncho-wearing fans couldn't imagine that would be the Hokies' last lead in regulation. But in the second quarter, the Herd took command.
A pair of defensive facemask penalties jump-started the Herd, and Cato loosened up the Tech defense with a 19-yard run. Cato ended the drive with a jarring pass fake pass and 4-yard TD run.
The Herd hit paydirt on its next possession, with Taliaferro reeling off consecutive runs of 19 and 23 yards - almost equaling ECU's game total against the Hokies. After tight end Gator Hoskins skirmished with Tech's Kendall Fuller, Hoskins caught a 13-yard TD catch, getting wide open after rover Kyshoen Jarrett fell.
That came with 9:06 left in the first half, and the Herd defense made that 21-14 lead stick for nearly 36 minutes. There were interceptions by Monterius Lovett and Neville Hewitt on consecutive plays.
And there were two major stops that had the Herd believing.
Late in the second quarter, Tech went on a 16-play, 73-yard drive that included punter A.J. Hughes running 12 yards for a first down after fumbling the snap. Marshall held the Hokies at the 19 and Keyserling hit the left upright from 36 yards.
The sterner stop came in the third quarter, when the Herd gave up pass plays of 23 and 13 yards and faced down a third-and-2 at its 11. After limiting Trey Edmunds to a single yard, the 6-foot-6, 254-pound Thomas tried his trademark QB draw on fourth down - and was met by Jermaine Holmes, James Rouse, Raheem Waiters and lots of other green for a 1-yard loss.