Marshall’s defense played well enough to keep Marshall in the game most of the day, but The Herd offense could never get any momentum going against a stifling Hokie defense as Marshall fell to Virginia Tech 30-10 Saturday afternoon at Joan C. Edwards Stadium.
The Herd’s running game was nearly non-existent as it rushed for just six yards on 24 carries in the game. With the lack of a running game, Marshall’s offense became one dimensional relying on the pass and it was effective at times. Even under constant pressure from the Hokie defense Rakeem Cato threw for 245 yards on 17 of 33 passing.
“When we become one dimensional we’re not good enough football to constantly throw it and win the game,” explained Holliday.
The Hokies got on the scoreboard first thanks to a five yard touchdown run by quarterback Logan Thomas. The scoring drive was set up by several unforced mistakes by the Thundering Herd special teams.
Andre Booker muffed a punt after Marshall’s defense held Virginia Tech to a three and out. Booker was lucky to recover the football, but Marshall was pinned at its own five yard line. Marshall moved the ball out to the 27 but was forced to punt. Kase Whitehead shanked the kick giving Virginia Tech the ball on the 50. The Hokies used six plays and 2:33 to punch the ball into the endzone with a physical run by Quarterback Logan Thomas who ran over The Herd’s Devin Arrington to reach paydirt.
Virginia Tech got the ball back near midfield again with 5:18 left in the first quarter. Logan Thomas hit D.J. Coles twice for gains of 22 and 9 yards and David Wilson gained 30 yards on the ground including a three yard touchdown run to give Tech the 13-0 lead. Marshall blocked the extra point and it appeared Monterius Lovett returned it all the way back for two points. However, the play was reviewed and officials determined his knee went down at the 15 yard line and the two points were taken off the board.
Marshall notched its first points of the game off the foot of Tyler Warner. Warner booted a 45 yard field goal after the drive stalled at the Hokie 28 yard line. The field goal cut the Hokie lead to 10 with 14:48 left in the first half.
The Hokies answered right away on their next offensive series. The drive was highlighted by a 29 yard pass from Thomas to Coles that got Virginia Tech down to the Marshall 31 yard line. It looked like Marshall would hold the Hokies to a field goal attempt after Thomas’ pass to Coles was incomplete; however, Rashad Jackson was flagged for pass interference. That ultimately set up a four yard touchdown run by Josh Oglesbay giving Tech the lead 20-3.
Tech tacked on another field goal with 1:10 left in the first half and it looked like Tech would take a 23-3 lead into the lockerroom.
However, Marshall’s offense showed signs of life at the end of the first half. Rakeem Cato completed three passes of 12, 30 and 29 yards putting Marshall in the endzone for the first time on the day. Cato hit Aaron Dobson in stride for the 29 yard scoring pass to keep the game within reach at 23-10.
“I was surprised he was that open,” said Cato after the game.
Both defenses played well in the third quarter as neither offense could notch any points.
Marshall dodged a huge bullet early in the second half on its first offensive series when Rakeem Cato threw a duck that was picked off by Antoine Exum and returned 35 yards down to the Marshall 29 yard line. However, the defense was able to stiffen again and got some help in the form of an illegal chop block penalty called on the Hokies. A 37 yard field goal attempt by Cody Journell sailed left and Marshall escaped without surrendering any points on the turnover.
The Herd offense squandered another opportunity and Marshall’s defense came up big again on third down on the ensuing Hokie drive stopping Wilson on a 3rd and 2 to get the ball back in the offense’s hands.
Marshall seemed to get some rhythm going offensively for the first time all day. Cato completed 5 of 8 pass attempts for 40 yards and moved the ball to midfield, including a pair of third down conversions. Marshall faced a third and one at the Tech 46 yard line, but Travon Van was dropped in the backfield for a loss of 2. The Herd decided to punt on 4th and 3 at the Hokie 44 yard line rather than go for it, much to the chagrin of the Thundering Herd faithful.
“We’re 13 points down and we’re still in the third quarter. The right decision there was to punt and to pin them down there,” defended Holliday. “The defense stopped them in the second half. For the defense to be playing the way it was playing, I wouldn’t be a very smart coach not to punt the ball at that point.”
That punt set up the Virginia Tech scoring drive that would put the game out of reach. The Hokies went on an eight play 86 yard drive that was highlighted by a 44 yard run by Josh Oglesby. The longest play of the day moved the Hokies to Marshall’s five yard line where Oglesby finished off the drive by punching it in for his second touchdown of the afternoon.
Virginia Tech finished the day with 444 yards of total offense including 215 yards on the ground and 229 through the air. Logan Thomas completed 22 of 33 for 229 and tailback David Wilson rushed for 132 yards on 11 carries.
For The Herd, Aaron Dobson caught five balls for 103 yards and Antavious Wilson made three grabs for 72 yards. Tron Martinez was The Herd’s leading rusher with just 10 yards on the ground.
Marshall hits the road for its final non-conference game of the season with the Louisville Cardinals next Saturday.