HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — It was that old sinking feeling for the Green and White.
The Marshall University football team lost 42-38 to the East Carolina Pirates at home Saturday evening, despite holding a 17-point lead heading into the final quarter.
The Thundering Herd (2-1) got on the board first when kicker Andrew Sanders drilled a 29-yard field goal three minutes into the first quarter.
The Pirates (1-2) responded on their very next drive with a touchdown just over three minutes later.
Marshall took back the lead with five minutes to go in the first when quarterback Grant Wells found wide receiver Willie Johnson for 19 yards.
The Purple and Gold continued the back-and-forth affair with another touchdown three minutes into the second.
Running back Rasheen Ali scored all 14 points for the Herd in the second quarter, starting with a 29-yard rush five minutes into the quarter, followed by punching the ball in from the 1-yard line on Marshall’s very next drive.
However, the Pirates marched down the field as time ticked away, scoring a touchdown with eight seconds to go.
Heading into the second half with a slim 24-21 lead, Ali once again found the end zone for the Green and White with a 49-yard run.
With a minute to go in the third quarter, Wells kept the ball for six yards to give the Thundering Herd a big 17-point lead heading into the final quarter.
With only 15 minutes to go, Marshall could have scored one more time to put the game out of reach, but they just couldn’t get it done.
From fumbling the ball into the end zone, to having drives stall out, the Green and White couldn’t get that last all-important score.
East Carolina started their comeback with seven minutes to go, followed by another touchdown exactly five minutes after to put them down by three points.
After recovering an onside kick, the Pirates punched the ball in one last time to give them the lead.
While Marshall made an attempt at a last-minute score, Wells was intercepted at ECU’s 1-yard line to seal the win.
Marshall head coach Charles Huff said Saturday’s game is one his team cannot afford to think about moving forward.
“It hurts, but we have to move on,” he said. “We can’t hang onto this one too long.”
Ball protection will be on the agenda for the Herd.
“We have to find a way to protect the football,” Huff said. “It’s becoming a habit and we have to get it fixed.”
Wells, despite the loss, had a career day in the air, putting up a stat line of 24-39-2 for a total of 433 yards.
Leading the Herd in rushing was Ali, who racked up 189 yards on 24 carries.
The Thundering Herd have a short turnaround before their next game, traveling to face the Appalachian State Mountaineers at 7:30 p.m. Thursday.
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Colton Jeffries can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2100.