CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- WHEN I finally packed up my belongings and trudged out of muddy Blacksburg, Va., I did so with a sense of calm.
Part of it was that I was drained, frazzled by trying to put Marshall's 29-21 triple-overtime loss to Virginia Tech into half-coherent paragraphs. Another part had to do with the memory of the Thundering Herd's previous three hammerings by the Hokies, and how different this game was.
I mean, the cringe-inducing details of the 2009 game never go away. The 444 yards rushing, the Hokies taking a knee at game's end to hold the margin to 52-10, Mark Snyder wasting Aaron's Dobson's redshirt in his harebrained attempt at saving his head coaching keister ... did I forget anything?
(If any Herd fan out there is muttering "a loss is a loss is a loss," stop it.)
The final part came from realizing that if the Herd maintains this level of play the rest of the way, it goes no worse than 6-2 in Conference USA play. MU should be 3-1 one way or another, yes, but there's no need to jump ship.
(I hear it now: "They should run the table with their eyes closed." Stop it, stop it, stop it.)
I was calm despite thinking of the Herd's one truly bad coaching decision, to run up the middle three times and then send out kicker Justin Haig in overtime No. 1.
Haig does have a game-winner to his credit, that 45-yarder he sneaked over the crossbar last November against Houston. But conditions were perfect in that game - 50 degrees, sunny, little wind.
Your TV picture didn't do the conditions in Blacksburg the proper justice. As good as that Bermuda surface is, puddles expanded in the relentless rain and any kicker's plant foot stood the risk of being unplanted. Long snaps and holds were risky ventures.
Shoot, you can argue coach Doc Holliday's idea was the least conservative. Tech had figured out Marshall's running attack and the Herd offensive line was gassed, but Tommy Shuler and Devon "Moo Moo" Smith can bail you out on quick routes.
I'd have given better odds on a touchdown than Haig's 39-yarder, which was blocked by Derrick Hopkins. That meant the kick was way too low - Hopkins is the same 311-pound sun-blotting tackle who succumbed to rigor mortis (and Essray Taliaferro) on a potential game-ending fumble return in overtime No. 2.
As Holliday points out, coach Frank Beamer went down the same road in that second overtime, with substitute kicker Ethan Keyserling misfiring from 32 yards. Keyserling, kicking in pace of the suspended Cody Journell, was listed as a punter and wasn't even on the depth chart.
The Hokies did pick up a first down before centering the ball, though.
It wasn't the first time Holliday went too conservative and paid for it. I point to the Herd's overtime loss to West Virginia in 2010 - and not for the way the Herd defended the Mountaineers on the 96- and 98-yard drives that tied it. (Geno Smith, Tavon Austin, Stedman Bailey and Noel Devine were pretty good, you know.)
I'm talking about getting a 28-yard run by the soon-to-be-exiled Martin Ward, then clamming up near midfield. After running on third-and-10, MU punted and gave WVU 3:09 to go those 98 yards.
I've often thought sticking with your offense and trying to get a first down is a better play in such situations. Shoot, I even defend Snyder for delaying a field goal try and running another play in the 2005 Kansas State game, the one that turned into an interception and a 21-19 defeat.
(Remember, the kicker was Ian O'Connor, not known as "Mr. Clutch.")