Nobody, including myself, gave Miami any kind of chance to be competitive in season-opener with Marshall Saturday afternoon. Marshall is a front-runner to win Conference USA, and potentially run the table based on their strength of schedule (or lack-thereof). But through a sheer force of will and determination, Miami battled back, cutting a 25-point halftime deficit down to just once score late in the fourth, before ultimately succumbing to Marshall's superior firepower and falling 42-27.
The Thundering Herd came out and put up 21 straight points on the RedHawks. But first-year Miami head coach Chuck Martin kept his team focused and they never quit playing on him. In fact they nearly gave Thundering Herd head coach Doc Holliday a scare as they mounted a fierce comeback.
After going down 21-0, the RedHawks moved down the field and put up a field goal. It didn't seem like much, but keep in mind this is a team that really struggled to score any kind of points last season; a season in which they didn't win a single game. Starting quarterback Andrew Hendrix, a transfer from Notre Dame, was able to consistently move the ball down the field all game for Miami. Hendrix finished the game 24-49 for 318 yards passing, with 3 touchdown's and 1 interception. He also added 46 yards on the ground. David Frazier was the favorite target of Hendrix all day. He was on the receiving end of six receptions for 109 yards receiving, adding a long reception of 47 yards.
For Marshall, Rakeem Cato rolled in the first half missing only four times and throwing for 180 yards. In the third quarter however, Cato struggled mightily as did the entire team when Miami's defense clamped down. He finished the game 20-32 for 261 yards and 3 touchdown passes. Cato added a touchdown with his legs as well. It was the final score of the game.
The Thundering Herd watched their 28-3 lead vanish in the third quarter, as they managed just one first down, and entered the fourth quarter up by just a score, 28-20.
Marshall decided to turn to its run game feeding Devon Johnson, and control the clock. Johnson took advantage of the RedHawks' question marks on defense, piling up 151 yards and 2 touchdowns. His first touchdown opened the lead back to 15. The RedHawks answered with a touchdown pass from Hendrix to Rakeem Williams and the lead was back down to eight. It was the closest the RedHawks came, as the Thundering Herd finally pulled away.
For the RedHawks defense there were a lot of positive signs today. They forced the Thundering Herd to five consecutive three and outs in the third quarter. They only allowed 14 points in the second half, and added five team sacks. There was also a lot of excitement on offense, but the lack of a running game can hurt the RedHawks going forward. Spencer Treadwell broke off some nice runs, but they never found any lanes with real consistency in this game.
The RedHawks were not good on third downs. In fact they converted just 5-19. They also squandered away a few opportunities early in the game going for fourth downs instead of taking sure points with the field goals. They finished the game 1-5 on fourth down chances. Committing a game high 12 penalties for 107 yards will do nothing to help a young team win games, but there are obvious improvements compared to the disastrous 2013 campaign..
The RedHawks will look to get things back on track as they welcome in the Eastern Kentucky Colonels next week.