Herd Hangs Tough at No. 15 Tennessee, But Vols Prevail 33-7


Tennessee tailback Montario Hardesty, center, breaks away from Marshall defenders Byron Tinker (94) and Zearrick Mathews, right, for a 20-yard touchdown run in the second quarter. (AP Photo/ Mark Humphrey)

Tennessee tailback Montario Hardesty, center, breaks away from Marshall defenders Byron Tinker (94) and Zearrick Mathews, right, for a 20-yard touchdown run in the second quarter. (AP Photo/ Mark Humphrey)

Sept. 23, 2006

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - Clinging to within nine points for nearly 48 minutes, the Marshall Thundering Herd was able to put a scare into 15th-ranked Tennessee, but the Volunteers ultimately pulled away 33-7 Saturday night at Neyland Stadium.

Tennessee's LaMarcus Coker led all rushers with 146 yards on eight carries, including an 89-yard touchdown run. Erik Ainge completed 18-of-27 passes for 258 yards with a touchdown. Despite the Herd dominating the time of possession by nearly 10 minutes, the Volunteers (3-1) accumulated 434 yards of total offense, while holding the Herd to 236 total yards.

Ahmad Bradshaw (Bluefield, Va./Graham) led the Herd (1-3) with 72 rushing yards on 24 carries, while Chubb Small (Auburndale, Fla./Hargrave) added 44 yards on nine carries. Bernard Morris (Orlando, Fla./Jones) contributed 32 yards on the ground, while completing 8-of-14 passing for 110 yards with an interception.

Freshman Cody Slate (Chipley, Fla./Hargrave) led all Herd receivers with a game-high five receptions for 45 yards. Tennessee's Robert Meachem had six receptions for 76 yards, while Jayson Swain had five catches for a game-high 98 yards and a touchdown.

Sophomore defensive end Albert McClellan (Lakeland, Fla./Kathleen) recorded a team-high eight tackles, including two tackles for loss and a sack. Matt Couch (Okeana, Ohio/Ross Senior) and Curtis Keyes (Mt. Olive, Miss./Mize) added six tackles each. James Johnson (Springdale, Md./St. John's) chipped in five tackles and three pass break-ups.

 

 

Tennessee took its opening drive 56 yards on 10 plays, but the Volunteers were unable to post any points. James Wilhoit's 42-yard field goal attempt fell wide right, giving the Herd the ball on its own 25-yard line. Wilhoit's miss broke a personal streak of 11 consecutive field goals made.

However, a bad snap by Doug Legursky (Beckley, W.Va./Woodrow Wilson) sailed over the head of Morris on the Herd's first offensive play. The miscue pinned Marshall at its own 3-yard line. Two plays later, Xavier Mitchell sacked Morris in the end zone for a safety to give Tennessee an early 2-0 lead with 8:32 remaining in the first quarter.

The Volunteers took their ensuing possession 72 yards on six plays in 3:02 to extend the lead to 9-0. Ainge completed three consecutive passes, including a 47-yard touchdown strike to Swain.

In the second quarter, Marshall engineered a 13-play, 92-yard scoring drive to pull within two points, 9-7, with 5:28 remaining in the first half. Morris dove into the end zone from one yard out for his first rushing touchdown of the season.

Tennessee regained a nine-point lead late in the second quarter, 16-7, on Montario Hardesty's 20-yard touchdown run at the 2:52 mark.

Marshall continued to move the ball successfully against the Tennessee defense in the third quarter. The Herd's offense was on the field for 14:29, putting together a pair of lengthy offensive drives. But, the Herd was unable to produce any points.

On the opening possession of the third quarter, the Herd drove 51 yards in 12 plays, chewing up 9:14 on the game clock. Marshall accumulated 37 yards rushing during the drive. However, Anthony Binswanger (Pleasant Hill, Calif./Diablo Valley CC) missed a 46-yard field goal attempt, keeping the Vols' lead at nine, 16-7.

After the Herd held the Tennessee offense stagnant, Marshall began its second drive of the quarter on its own 2-yard line. The Herd marched down the field, relying on its rushing offense, driving 62 yards on 11 plays to inside the Tennessee 40-yard line. On the Herd's 10th running play of the drive, Morris' errant pitch on an option to the right side bounced off Matt Parkhurst (Philadelphia, Pa./St. Joseph's Prep), ending the drive.

Two plays later, Matt Couch (Okeana, Ohio/Ross Senior) picked off Ainge's pass and returned it 15 yards to the Tennessee 44-yard line. But, Marshall was unable to capitalize on the turnover, punting the ball back to the Vols.

Tennessee began to pull away in the fourth quarter. Following a Marshall punt, Coker tallied the third-longest scoring run in Tennessee history, scoring a 89-yard touchdown run to give the Vols a 23-7 lead.

Wilhoit's 49-yard field goal at 5:24 mark of the fourth quarter extended Tennessee's lead to 19 points, 26-7. The Volunteers added another touchdown in the final minute of the fourth quarter to take the 33-7 win.

The Marshall Thundering Herd will return to action Wednesday, Oct. 4, when it hosts the UCF Golden Knights in its Conference USA opener. Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m. (EDT) on ESPN 2.