Flawed theory of the weekend: Marshall's millennium-high 106 plays hurt the defense.
Yes, it can happen. You score quickly, your defense returns to the field quickly. If you can't get a first down, your defense hits the field really, really quickly.
But in this game, a look at the time of possession blows the theory away. Marshall held the ball nearly 32 minutes, 55 seconds - 2 seconds off the season high against West Virginia. It was just the fourth time Marshall has "won" that category, with a split result on the scoreboard.
Marshall's tempo, as rapid as it was, helped the Herd defense get as much rest as it did. That started at the beginning with a 16-play, 81-yard drive that chewed up 5:04. The Herd also had an 11-play, 74-yard drive taking 3:29, a 14-play, 75-yard drive taking 4:18 and a 14-play, 73-yard field goal drive using up 5:03.
That gave the Herd a 41-38 lead, and I could argue the defense got an extra breather to use on Houston's last possession, a drive in which the Cougars had to settle for a tying field goal.
I won't reach that far, but the Herd's "NASCAR" offense doesn't need a yellow flag.
A sign of Cato's comfort and confidence in running that offense: He was surprised when he was told the Herd took 106 official snaps.
I surely wasn't. My gauge is easy - how much time do I have to jot down notes between plays? Answer: none. I was lucky to note yard line, time and distance.
But Cato said, "It seemed like we ran fewer plays. They were blitzing all the time, so we had to slow our offense down to get the right looks."
Yes, they had to slow it down, all the way to 106 snaps.
Coaches who call timeout a split-second before an opposing field goal attempt richly deserve to lose. I'm talking to you, Tony Levine.
In the waning seconds of Saturday's game, Houston's coach pulled one of the most annoying tricks in the coaches' bag, calling a timeout just before Justin Haig's field-goal attempt. With that timeout coming so close to the snap, snapper Matt Cincotta, holder Blake Frohnapfel and kicker Haig had to go through their routine.
Haig sneaked the ball over the crossbar from 45 yards, but had to do it again. With an extra minute to go over mechanics, Haig hit the field goal again and the Herd won.
The whole practice of "icing" the kicker is useless most of the time, even if you don't stoop to Levine's stunt. I argue the kicker is at his biggest disadvantage in his first attempt. He, his snapper and holder have worked on the sidelines with a net, but it's not really the same.
This reminds me of one of my highlights of the 2011 season, when Rice coach David Bailiff tried the pre-snap timeout with Marshall kicker Tyler Warner. Warner missed left on the nullified attempt, and then poked the "real" 45-yarder down the middle. As it turned out, the Owls had to score a touchdown instead of a field goal after Marshall went ahead 24-20 with 1:49 left.
One hopes Bailiff learned his lesson. "I thought that was momentum into the half, and I was happy for Tyler. I'm glad David called that timeout," Holliday said then.
Reach Doug Smock at 304-348-5130, by email at dougsm...@wvgazette.com or follow him at twitter.com/dougsmock.