BLACKSBURG, VA—Hindsight is always 20/20. So it easy to look back at particular play calls or strategy after a game and question if those were the proper decisions. Coaches are always darned if they do or darned if they don’t. Heroes if they win, idiots if they lose.
Doc Holliday’s decision to run the ball three times up the middle and set up a field goal in the rain during the first overtime with Virginia Tech was being talked about before Herd fans clothes had dried out after sitting in a storm all day in Blacksburg.
Holliday explained his decision after the game.
“I thought at that point it was sloppy out there. I felt that he had been consistent from the 25-yard line and we felt that he could put us in a position to win the game and unfortunately we couldn’t get it done.”
Holliday didn’t elaborate more than that. Based on his statement, Holliday felt there was more of a risk putting the ball and taking shots at the endzone in the weather conditions. He had confidence that his special teams and kicker Justin Haig could get the job done.
Would Haig’s kick have had the distance and sailed through the uprights? We’ll never know because the true breakdown was not in strategy. It was in execution.
While play calls and decisions can be debated, execution cannot. You either execute or you don’t. There’s no middle ground.
On two critical special teams plays Marshall had breakdowns that ultimately cost it the game. The first breakdown came early. The second came in overtime.
The very first time Marshall lined up to punt, the Hokies rushed through the protection and swarmed around punter Tyler Williams. They blocked the punt and recovered it for a touchdown. Marshall had similar breakdown in overtime. Whether or not Justin Haig could have made the 39-yard field goal in the rain was mute when Derrick Hopkins broke through the line and blocked the field goal attempt.
Those two plays potentially accounted for a ten-point swing and ultimately the outcome of the game.
Yes, Marshall missed several opportunities to extend its lead and put the game away in the second half. The blocked punt and blocked field goal attempt are just the most glaring examples. Marshall need to play a mistake-free game to come away with a win and didn’t.
The strategy and play calling is debatable. However, no one will argue that once again Marshall made too many mistakes notch a statement victory.