Carl Pelini has found more ways to lose games than win them.
Saturday night Justin Haig’s last-second field goal propelled Marshall to a 24-23 win over FAU and handed the program one of it’s most difficult losses to date.
Pelini stood at the podium in his post-game press conference, and could only mutter what he truly he was thinking.
“He made it –– we didn’t. That’s the difference,” Pelini said.
FAU wasted their best defensive performance of the season, and couldn’t come up with the necessary stop when the game was on the line.
With 2:19 remaining in the contest, Marshall got the ball at the Owl’s 9-yard line and drove 67 yards to set up the game-winning kick with no timeouts.
FAU was playing with an injury depleted secondary, which allowed from quarterback Rakeem Cato to take a shot on the outside. Cato found Devon Smith deep for 35 yards to move into FAU territory, and two plays later Haig gave the Owl’s their third fourth quarter or later loss of the season with his kick.
The Owls had built a second-half lead behind the legs of quarterback Jaquez Johnson on a 1-yard touchdown run, but it was the leg of kicker Mitch Anderson that proved to be the difference. Anderson (pictured) missed a field goal early in the first quarter that would have provided crucial points, but more importantly he pushed an extra point attempt wide right in the third quarter.
“I had nobody,” Pelini said of the kicking game. “We’re not a professional team, I can’t just go sign a kicker off waivers. We have to get Mitch right”
Anderson wasn’t the only blemish for FAU’s special teams, as a 77-yard punt return by Smith in the first half exposed a lack of containment in coverage.
The Owls defense was able to hold a potent Marshall offense to just 355 total yards –– which was well below their Conference-USA season leading average –– but it didn’t account for the miscues on special teams.
Cornerback D’Joun Smith intercepted a Cato pass on the first play of the game, but Anderson missed a 40-yard field goal attempt to leave FAU empty-handed.
“It’s very frustrating because everyone sees the potential that this team has… we just have to get over the hill,” Smith said.
Johnson accounted for 265 yards of total offense and two touchdowns, while FAU managed 395 yards as a team. The quarterback opened the second half with a four-play scoring drive that ended with a Jonathan Wallace 2-yard touchdown run and followed it up with a 5-yard touchdown pass to Nexon Dorvilus.
Marshall countered with a 1-yard touchdown run from Kevin Grooms and a 41-yard pass from Cato to Gator Hoskins.
FAU’s secondary played their first game without starting cornerback Keith Reaser –– who is out for the year with a knee injury –– which meant that true freshman Reggie Brown and sophomore Cre’von LeBlanc had to rotate in his place. The duo had their moments, but it was LeBlanc who was beat in coverage at the end of the game to set up the field goal.
“We missed some opportunities on defense and then we missed some opportunities on special teams,” Pelini said. “You can’t point to any one play and say that’s the reason we lost this game.”
The Owls move to 2-5 on the year, but still have a shot at a bowl game if everything can fall into place with a favorable schedule lingering after a bye week.
“We will bounce back. We have five games left to get four (wins),” Pelini said.