MCGILL: Late Rush, Pass Rush Lead @HerdFB In Kent State Shutout

Sept. 16, 2017

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By Chuck McGill

HerdZone.com

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. – The flashes of promise Marshall showed in its 21-0 win against Kent State here Saturday night came from new sources or defied precedent.

Quarterback Chase Litton showed he could run a little.

Running back Tyler King showed he could run a lot.

And the Marshall defense – with the program’s third shutout in its past 18 games – recorded seven sacks against a Golden Flashes team that hadn’t surrendered one all season.

“Sometimes you have to grind the game out and find a way to win,” Marshall coach Doc Holliday said. “I was proud of the way the defense played and prepared this week. Anytime you shut someone out, you’re happy with that.”

Indeed, and all of that overshadowed the fact that it took Marshall 29 minutes and 54 seconds to end a scoreless football game. The Thundering Herd took the series lead against Kent State, which now stands 19-18 in favor of MU, behind Litton’s two touchdowns, King’s 100-yard rushing game in his collegiate debut and a defense that answered the challenge of Kent State’s seldom-seen triple option attack.

“That might be one of the best defensive performances I’ve ever seen at Marshall,” tight end Ryan Yurachek said. “They won that game for us.”

The last team to shut out Kent State was No. 1-ranked Alabama, 48-0, last September.

“When (Kent State) did get in the red zone we came up with some big (defensive) plays,” Holliday said. “That offense is hard to prepare for so (MU defensive coordinator) Chuck Heater and the defensive staff deserve a lot of credit.”

Marshall (2-1, 0-0 Conference USA) opened the game with five fruitless drives, three of which ended on punts, one on downs and another on Litton’s only interception of the game. Finally, with six seconds left of the first half, Litton found junior receiver Marcel Williams in the back of the end zone to open scoring.

The touchdown pass extended Litton’s streak of consecutive games with a scoring toss to 24 games, which leads all FBS quarterbacks, and gave Williams his first FBS receiving touchdown.

Williams finished with team-best and career-highs of eight receptions and 79 yards.

Kent State (1-2 overall, 0-0 Mid-American Conference) twice advanced to the red zone but couldn’t come away with points.

Still, the Golden Flashes only had two drives longer than 50 yards: a nine-play, 72-yard drive in the first quarter and a 12-play, 59-yard drive that ended with an interception by Marshall’s Chris Jackson – his second pick of the season.

Meanwhile, the offense saved its moments for the fourth quarter.

Litton, a 6-foot-6, 232-pound junior QB who entered Saturday’s game with two carries for minus-19 yards this season, scrambled for a 14-yard touchdown run with 7:03 left. It was his second career touchdown on the ground.

King, a redshirt freshman who did not play in the first two games of the season, thrived in the fourth quarter. He had two carries for 1 yard in the third quarter, and then broke out for 12 more rushing attempts and 99 yards in the fourth quarter alone.

“Tyler King came in and gave us a little punch there,” Holliday said.

He finished with 14 carries and a game-high 101 yards, including a 29-yard touchdown run that completed scoring with 1:08 left.

“He’s one of those guys who I have been eager to see,” Yurachek said. “He finally got in there and did what everybody thought he was going to do. He’s one of the fastest people I’ve ever seen. We needed a little burst and he gave it to us.”

Litton finished 23 of 43 passing for 223 yards and added 25 yards on three carries.

He found six different receivers, including last week’s breakout star – Tyre Brady – who finished with five receptions for 71 yards.

The Herd offense finished with 381 yards on 76 plays – an average of 5.0 per play.

“The Kent State defense did a great job,” Yurachek said. “They did a great job of being multiple and giving us different looks all night.”

While those defensive looks occasionally gave Marshall fits, the Herd defense handled Kent State’s run-heavy offense. The Golden Flashes lost their starting quarterback, Nick Holley, early and ended up playing three different QBs. Holley rushed four times for 35 yards but did not attempt a pass. Backup George Bollas was 4 of 12 passing for 55 yards and an interception and Dustin Crum completed 3 of 5 passes for 62 yards.

Bollas was sacked three times and Crum was sacked on four occasions. The Herd sacked Kent State on three of the final five plays of the third quarter, and then recorded four more sacks in the fourth quarter when the Golden Flashes were forced to go to the air to try and come back.

Kent State did not allow a sack in the first 10 quarters of the season.

Defensive end Damien Dozier finished with three sacks, defensive tackle Ryan Bee added two more and safety Nazeeh Johnson and defensive end Davon Durant each recorded a sack.

Junior linebacker Chase Hancock led Marshall with 11 tackles and Bee finished with 10 tackles, two sacks, two tackles for a loss and a QB hurry.

It was Marshall’s first seven-sack game in four seasons and only the 10th game of seven sacks or more in program history.

The Herd is off next week before traveling to Cincinnati for its final non-conference game.

“It’s always great to go into an open date with a win,” Holliday said. “We’ll get some guys back healthy now this week and get ready to go play Cincinnati.”