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Wednesday, October 4, 2023


Silent Assassin: Loss should come as no surprise to fans

The Cougars have survived by living on the edge for so long that they probably never realized the full seriousness of this bad habit.

Leave it to Marshall, another mediocre team, to knock them back into reality.

The Cougars had no answer for an explosive Marshall team that dominated on both sides of the ball. They had no improbable second-half comebacks to save them from the kind of embarrassing defeat that had eluded them the last two weeks.

The Cougars were simply awful, and the coaching was just as poor.

Say what you will about the coaching, but the Cougars had this loss coming. No team can survive forever by continually falling behind in the first half and waiting until the second half to pick up steam.

There was no better example of the Cougars’ second-half magic than their 44-38 come-from-behind win over Southern Methodist on Oct. 18. The Cougars trailed for nearly the entire game until a touchdown pass from sophomore quarterback Case Keenum put them ahead for good with 24 seconds remaining.

Opponents usually let the Cougars back into the game by making mistakes early in the third quarter and breaking down offensively. In the game against SMU, the Cougars were able to outscore their opponent 21-3 in the fourth quarter.

Marshall, however, had no kinks in its armor.

The Thundering Herd didn’t commit any turnovers, quickly established a rhythm on offense and kept it going, and its defense made life miserable for Keenum, who ran for his life all night. Marshall head coach Mark Snyder and his coordinators drew up a competent game plan and ran it to near perfection.

The Cougars, on the other hand, looked as if they were playing flag football. Wide receivers dropped passes all over the field, the offensive line did little to keep the Marshall front four defenders from harassing Keenum and the defenders tackled as if they never learned the proper way to do so.

"We had some miscommunications and dropped balls, and Marshall played really well defensively," said Keenum, who threw for 317 yards and two touchdowns, but was intercepted twice and sacked four times. "They were causing us to make some mistakes."

The first-half debacle was one which fans have come to expect this season. But the second half performance left them wondering how good this team really is.

One thing’s for certain – this team isn’t good enough to win the Conference USA Western Division championship. The Cougars have too many flaws that are going to make it tough for them to get by Western frontrunner and Associated Press No. 19 Tulsa (8-0, 5-0 C-USA).

One glaring weakness is this team’s inability to start off strong offensively in the first halves. Things won’t get any better for the Cougars with the losses of junior right tackle Josh Bell and freshman wide receiver Patrick Edwards, who suffered potential season-ending leg injuries in Tuesday’s game.

The defense still remains a work in progress. But then again, haven’t we heard all this stuff before?

The truth is the Cougars are an average team at best, and they’re fortunate to be .500, especially considering the tightrope they’ve been walking these last few weeks.

But they’ve probably run out of magical second-half comebacks. So don’t get used to seeing those anymore.

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