Owls fall to Smith-Cotton, 41-14
The Marshall football team may do several things well.
Blocking and tackling are not among them. Hence, the Owls once more were unable to able to stop or generate a running game Friday during a 41-14 non-conference home loss to Smith-Cotton.
Marshall gained only 30 yards on 22 carries and surrendered 292 rushing yards to the Tigers. On the bright side, the Owls were more aggressive defensively - with multiple players getting to the ballcarrier 16 times and linebackers involved in 20 tackles, nine by senior Lukas Jakubin.
The game played out similarly to the previous week's 41-13 loss to Chillicothe. Marshall trailed by only 10 points midway through the third period, but then faded badly down the stretch, giving up 17 straight points.
The Owls opened with a 10-play drive, but when it stalled senior Douglas Lopez came up short on a 51-yard field goal attempt. Smith-Cotton moved smartly downfield, gaining 80 yards - all on the ground - on 12 plays before senior Carlton Homan ran in from 10 yards out.
Marshall again moved into Tiger territory, senior Zach Maupin completing three passes for 25 yards, before bring stripped of the ball by senior Noah Aziere at the 7-yard line. The Owls forced a punt, which junior Erik Mays returned down the left sideline for 50 yards to tie the score.
The teams traded punts, but Smith-Cotton came out ahead in the exchange, taking over at the MHS 39-yard line. Senior Caleb Reed picked up 27 yards on two quarterback keepers to set up Aziere's 2-yard TD plunge.
The Owls were unable to pick up a first down on their final three possessions of the half. The Tigers scored again before the break with a seven-play, 34-yard series ending with junior Blake Grupe's 31-yard field goal for a 17-7 lead.
Again, repeating the pattern of the season opener, Marshall was unable to make a defensive stop, giving up touchdowns on its first three defensive series. Reed's 17-yard scoring strike to senior Blake Jackson capped a 75-yard drive for Smith-Cotton.
The Owls struck back quickly, Maupin connecting with junior Chase Kateman, who caught the ball at midfield and split the secondary on a 75-yard reception to close the margin to 24-14 with 8:48 left in the third quarter.
However, the Tigers' next possession chewed up nearly six minutes with 14 plays for 76 yards, Homan scoring on a 15-yard run up the middle - going the final eight yards after bulling through a pair of defenders.
Aziere intercepted a pass at the Owls' 39, hauled in a 12-yard pass and run for nine yards before Homan plowed into the end zone from a yard out. Smith-Cotton capped the scoring with Grupe's 27-yard field goal after sophomore Chandler Koetting broke through the Owls' porous line on fourth down to drop senior punter Garrett Harvey for a 10-yard loss.
Marshall ended its string of six straight possessions without a first down when freshman Jaylen Varner caught a 22-yard pass, but a holding penalty the Tigers' third sack of the game ruined the drive.
The Owls only committed three penalties during the game, but one of them wiped out a 43-yard Mays reception early in the fourth quarter.
Aziere and Homan combined for 182 yards on 25 carries for Smith-Cotton (2-0).
So did Marshall improve from the previous week? Given the caliber of opponent, one could make the case that the Owls (0-2) did so, slightly. By the same token, this may be what Marshall is: a team with big-play potential, but one which doesn't stack up in the pits.
That assessment can be either rejected or confirmed Friday at NCMC rival Mexico, which has thus far shown itself to be just as salty as it was down the stretch a year ago.
Contact Chris Allen at email@example.com