MURFREESBORO, TN—Marshall lost in two of the three phases of the game Thursday night against Middle Tennessee. The defense gave up 585 yards of total offense to a team that came into the week ranked 104th in the country in offense. However, even as bad as the defense played, The Herd was still just one play away from victory.
The game may have never come down to the final play if Marshall did not commit more special team blunders that directly led to points.
Special team flubs are the common thread that ties all three of Marshall’s losses together. Major miscues on special teams directly led to 21 points in losses to Ohio, Virginia Tech and Middle Tennessee. The Herd lost those three games by a combined 13 points.
You do the math.
What is alarming, Marshall is still making the same mistakes.
Against Ohio, Steward Butler bumbled a kickoff that rolled into the endzone and the Bobcats recovered for a cheap score. Virginia Tech blew through the Marshall protection and blocked a Tyler Williams punt that was recovered in for a touchdown.
Thursday night, it was virtual replay from Lane Stadium when the Blue Raiders’ Chris Brown was nearly untouched blocked another Tyler Williams punt. Brown finished off the spectacular play by recovering the block and notching a special teams touchdown.
“On the punt team, that should never happen,” Coach Doc Holliday said. “They guys have to do their jobs and we have to do a better job of coaching them, evidently.”
Three games, three teams and three scores without the opposition’s offense ever taking the field.
Marshall’s defense bailed out an earlier special teams error in the first quarter.
Devon Smith muffed on his own 32-yard line that was recovered by Reggie Whatley. It looked as if the Blue Raiders were poised to capitalize on the turnover until Darryl Roberts picked off Logan Kilgore in the endzone to end the scoring threat.
Later, in the third quarter Marshall set up for a punt after being stopped on 3rd and 5. Tyler Williams field a low snap and as he kicked the ball officials blew their whistles and stopped the play. Williams field the punt on one knee. As soon as he caught the snap with his knee on the ground he was, by rule, down.
MTSU got the ball back on Marshall’s 47-yard line. The Blue Raiders got as close as the one-yard line but a personal foul penalty forced MTSU to kick a field goal.
It’s hard to say that a single play over the course of a game was the difference between a win and a loss. However, there’s no doubt that inept special teams have been major factors in The Herd’s three losses.