HUNTINGTON, W.Va.—At this time seven days ago there was a buzz surrounding the Marshall football program with a highly anticipated match up with Ohio University just days away. Optimistic Herd fans were already peeking ahead to the possible outcomes of a 3-0 Thundering Herd team going to Virginia Tech a week later.
Now, after Marshall shot itself in the foot time after time and failed its first test of the season in Athens, OH, the feeling heading into this week’s contest in Blacksburg is one more filled with apprehension rather than anticipation.
Even television picked up on that. ESPN set Saturday’s kickoff for noon and waited to announce which of its family of networks the game would air on. Immediately after Marshall’s 34-31 loss to Ohio it was revealed the game would air on ESPNU. I’m no program director but an undefeated Marshall versus Virginia Tech probably lands on ESPN or ESPN 2 Saturday afternoon.
Last Saturday was a benchmark game for Marshall to prove that the program had taken the proverbial “next step” under Doc Holliday. The Herd steamrolled its first two opponents of the season as it was expected to. The next step was to go on the road, in tough environment, against a tough team and win.
Instead of taking that step forward, Marshall at best stood still.
Four turnovers directly accounted for 17 Ohio points. That includes that “give me” touchdown on the bumbled kickoff return.
Defensively, Marshall struggled to get off the field on third down, especially in the second half. During a 17-play Ohio drive that chewed 8:31 off the clock, the Bobcats converted five third down attempts. Ohio was only 34 percent on third down coming into the game but converted 11-of-19 third down tries.
That brings us to this week’s trip to Blacksburg, VA.
Virginia Tech’s offense hasn’t set any records this season but is getting the job done. Logan Thomas threw for 258 yards and two touchdowns in the win over ECU.
Defensive coordinator Bud Foster might have one of his best units in several years. Last week, the Hokies corralled East Carolina quarterback Shane Carden, limiting him to 19-of-31 for 158 yards and one touchdown. The Hokies also sacked Carden seven times and picked him off three times. In week one, Hokies held their own against the two-time champion Crimson Tide.
The trip to Virginia Tech was going to be a tough game any way you look at it. Had Marshall taken care of business last week at Ohio, the team would be brimming with confidence at 3-0. It would have proven that it could go on the road, in a tough environment and win. A difficult game in Virginia Tech becomes a very winnable contest.
Marshall could still pull out an upset in Blacksburg this week, but now it must put last week’s fiasco behind it and prepare for the Hokies at the same time.
A much more difficult task than moving on from a solid win.