Sept. 15, 2013
By JACK BOGACZYK
ATHENS, Ohio - The bell tolled for Marshall on Saturday night ... again.
A third straight Thundering Herd loss to Ohio in the "Battle for the Bell" football rivalry really didn't have to be.
Yet, when a team turns the ball over four times (including the first three fumbles of the season, one on a kick return into the end zone for an Ohio touchdown), and the opponent has no giveaways, plus an elusive, veteran quarterback like Tyler Tettleton and keeps the ball for more than 35 1/2 minutes, you probably shouldn't expect to win.
"We just didn't play well enough," Herd coach Doc Holliday said after a frustrating 34-31 loss. "We turned it over way too many times. Give Ohio a lot of credit. They fought hard; we did, too.
"I have no problem with our effort ... but you can't turn the ball over the number of times we did and expect to win the football game."
The third largest crowd in Peden Stadium history (24,836) saw Tettleton unravel the Herd for a third straight year - the first time Ohio (2-1) has won three straight in the series since a six-game stretch between 1973 and '80, when the Herd was playing one NCAA level lower in Division I-AA.
In the first half, the Herd owned possession for nearly four minutes more than the hosts, had 15 more snaps and had 273 yards total offense to 127 for the Bobcats. However, two of the first three Marshall fumbles of the season - all by running backs -- led to 14 Ohio points.
Marshall (2-1) struggled to cope with the playmaking of Tettleton, whose numbers weren't eye-popping, but his elusiveness and efficiency in running the Bobcats' offense was impressive.
"He's a playmaker," Marshall senior linebacker Derek Mitchell said of Tettleton. "That's what playmakers do - they make plays."
After Marshall had trimmed the Ohio lead to 17-10 at halftime, Tettleton came out to start the second half, and guided Ohio 79 yards in nine plays to open the second half, finishing with a Bo Blankenship scoring run to open a 24-10 advantage.
The senior QB was far from finished. After Marshall went 68 yards in 15 plays to score on Essray Taliaferro's 3-yard run, the Bobcats kept the ball for the next 8:31 and scored early in the fourth quarter.
Marshall eventually got it down to a three-point deficit by going 66 yards in 10 plays to score on quarterback Rakeem Cato's 1-yard scramble - but there were only 29 seconds left, and Justin Haig's ensuing onsides kick try went out of bounds.
"We can't turn the ball over," said Cato, who took credit for a fourth-quarter interception he threw when receiver Demetrius Evans slipped on the Peden turf. "We kept shooting ourselves in the feet ... It was a bad play. All that's on me."
Cato's 38-yard, fourth-quarter touchdown pass to tight end Gator Hoskins gave him a 21st straight game with a scoring toss, which ranks second among current FBS quarterbacks to Derek Carr's 22 straight for Fresno State. Third on that list is Oregon's Marcus Mariota, with 16 straight.
That miscue led to an Ohio field goal, but the final score was more about Tettleton's scrambling and his ability to repeatedly find receivers with quick slant passes that made the most difference.
Tettleton was 19-of-23 passing in the final half. In the second half, coach Frank Solich's team had possession for 20:38 of 30 minutes.
For the game, the Bobcats were 11-for-19 on third-down conversions.
"If you can't get a team off on third down, you're going to have issues," said Herd senior defensive end Jeremiah Taylor, who missed the second half with an injury, but expects to return for Saturday's noon visit to Virginia Tech (2-1) in an ESPNU telecast game.
The Hokies' 15-10 win at East Carolina on Saturday and the Bobcats' triumph over Marshall left Conference USA with no unbeaten teams.
"We've all got to play as one," Cato said. "We all made mistakes - offense, defense. You've got to stick together and can't let one game get us down."
Ohio's performance wasn't anything the Herd hadn't previously seen. In Marshall's three-game losing streak to its neighbor, the Herd had 13 turnovers (to Ohio's three), and the Bobcats have had possession for nearly 34 1/2 minutes (average) per game.
"He made big plays when he had to," Holliday said of Tettleton, "and we couldn't get off the field. It's always a very physical game, and they're a well-coached football team ... we knew we had to come in here and beat `em, and we didn't get it done."
*Hoskins' TD catch in the fourth quarter was the 16th of his career, tying him with tight end Sean Doctor (1987-88) for No. 13 all-time at Marshall. The tight end TD receptions record is 23 by Cody Slate (2006-09).
*Wide receiver Tommy Shuler had nine receptions in the loss, moving him to 147 for his career and into a tie at No. 12 on the Marshall career list with Doctor. He needs 21 more catches to reach the top 10. In Saturday's game, he passed Troy Brown, LaVorn Colclough and Denero Marriott.
*With senior Brandon Sparrow sidelined (ankle), redshirt sophomore defensive tackle Jarquez Samuel made his first Marshall career start.
*Marshall's game captains - chosen weekly by coach Doc Holliday and staff - for the Ohio game are center Chris Jasperse and wide receiver Tommy Shuler on offense; and tackle James Rouse and nickel Corey Tindal on defense.
*WR Demetrius Evans made his first Herd start of the season (and sixth career start).
*Sophomore running back Kevin Grooms' 1-yard TD rush was his first score of the season and 10th (9 rushing) of his Herd career.
*True freshman offensive lineman Michael Selby entered the game for the third Herd series, making his first appearance of his career at (left) guard. He was a backup center in the first two games.