The 2012 Herd defense was worse, by a healthy margin. Entering the weekend, it ranked 116th in scoring defense and 97th in total defense, rankings that can only get worse after the weekend. The rush defense was 106th, though that should improve (with Carden's hot hand, the Pirates rushed for just 116 yards).
Twenty-three of those 517 points scored on the Herd came in overtime, 10 in a win over Rice and 13 to ECU. Overtimes can skew stats, but the Herd defense gets the blame for allowing those games to be tied in the first place.
In the Rice game, the Herd gave up late runs of 43 and 47 yards by quarterback Taylor McHargue, the former scoring a touchdown and latter coming awfully close. McHargue injured his shoulder attempting a heroic dive and Owls back Turner Petersen committed a false start on the MU 1-yard line, allowing the Herd to avoid a loss in regulation.
Those defensive pratfalls - and a weekly dash of special-teams ineptitude - overshadowed the Herd's best offensive season in a decade. Rakeem Cato threw for 4,000-plus yards, Tommy Shuler caught a school-record 110 passes and the offense scored 491 points, about 41 per game.
But it meant nothing Friday, as the Herd's 52 points in regulation only brought on overtime - and heartbreak. It had Holliday muttering about defense, and Marshall's lack thereof.
"You look at the end of the day, the two teams that are playing for the championship are Central Florida and Tulsa," he said, before remembering that ECU was still alive in the East Division race at the time. His thought trailed off, but he was referring to the league's best two defenses.
On Saturday, UCF clinched the East Division easily enough, brushing away 3-9 Alabama-Birmingham 49-24.
That is something Marshall failed to do earlier this month, mostly because of its defense. In that game, the Blazers' Darrin Reaves rushed for 184 yards and two touchdowns. That, too, denied Marshall a bowl berth.
"We've got to start playing better defense around here to get where we want to go," Holliday said.
Reach Doug Smock at 304-348-5130, dougsm...@wvgazette.com or follow him at twitter.com/dougsmock.