MCGILL: Herd's Hat Tricks Lead to Road Win at Cincinnati
The Word on the Herd -- Sept. 30, 2017
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By Chuck McGill
CINCINNATI - It was a night of hat tricks for Marshall here at Cincinnati's Nippert Stadium.
The Thundering Herd defense forced three turnovers, and the offense capitalized on those with three touchdowns. MU senior tight end Ryan Yurachek was the beneficiary, catching three touchdown passes after each of those sudden change situations.
In the end, Marshall had a 38-21 win against the Bearcats and a 3-1 record at the end of non-conference play. It is the third time in four seasons - and only the fifth time since MU left what was then known as I-AA for FBS status - that the Herd concluded non-league play with at least three wins (1998, 1999, 2014 and 2015 were the others).
"We had to put all three phases together," said Holliday, who has more seasons of at least three non-conference wins at the FBS level than any other coach in program history. "We hadn't done that all year.
"We have to build on it as a team now that we're in conference play," he said. "We've got to get rolling."
Marshall (3-1, 0-0 Conference USA) got rolling early in Saturday night's win, which was played before a crowd of 35,736. The Thundering Herd offense fumbled on its first possession, but a subsequent fumble by UC gave the offense another chance. Ten plays later, junior quarterback Chase Litton found Yurachek for a 14-yard touchdown connection to give Marshall a 7-0 lead in the first quarter.
The touchdown extended Litton's streak of consecutive games with a scoring pass to 25 games, the second-longest streak among FBS quarterbacks. The reception was the 33rd consecutive game in which Yurachek has recorded at least one catch.
The tight end from Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, was not close to being finished.
Marshall held a 10-0 lead against the Bearcats inside of two minutes left of the first half when, on fourth-and-2 from the 27, Litton found freshman receiver Willie Johnson for a 27-yard score and a 17-0 advantage.
Then, Cincinnati's Thomas Geddis fumbled the ensuing kickoff and Marshall's Nazeeh Johnson recovered at the UC 15. One play later, Litton found Yurachek again for a touchdown.
The Herd scored 14 points in 11 seconds and had opened a 24-0 lead at halftime. At intermission, Marshall had scored more points (24) than UC had offensive plays (21), and the Bearcats managed only three first downs in the first two quarters.
Cincinnati (2-3, 0-1 American) tried to claw back in the third quarter, finally breaking into the scoring column on a 2-yard run by Gerrid Doaks with 9:05 left of the third quarter. The touchdown snapped Marshall's streak of 99 minutes and 53 seconds without allowing a point, dating back to the fourth quarter of the Herd's loss at N.C. State three weeks ago.
The Bearcats had other opportunities to chip away at the deficit, but squandered them. UC and Marshall traded punts until the Herd's D'Andre Wilson recovered a muffed punt at the Cincinnati 31 with 1:12 left of the third quarter. The Herd offense capitalized yet again, this time a 31-yard Litton-to-Yurachek connection to make it 31-7, Marshall.
Yurachek finished with a season high six receptions, a career high 77 yards and the first three-touchdown receiving game at Marshall since Nov. 23, 2013 (Gator Hoskins, at FIU).
"People have been giving Tyre (Brady) a lot of attention and that opens things up for other people," Yurachek said. "Everybody has kind of had their game and tonight was my night. It says a lot about our football team. Tyre, Willie, Marcel (Williams) - those guys weren't worried about not touching the ball or not scoring, they were just happy for me."
Marshall has had four different leading receivers through four games.
"Chase did a great job of getting me the ball," Yurachek said of his quarterback.
Marshall improved to 5-0 over the last three seasons when Litton has a multi-touchdown, zero-interception game. Litton finished 21 of 34 passing for 233 yards and four touchdowns. The Herd offense allowed zero sacks, converted twice on third downs and finished a perfect 4-for-4 on red zone chances.
"Chase made good decisions with the ball and did what we asked him to do," Holliday said.
Junior Marcel Williams finished with five receptions and 57 yards and junior Tyre Brady added four catches for 34 yards. Junior Keion Davis finished with a game-high 93 rushing yards and 156 all-purpose yards (25 receiving and 38 on kickoff returns).
Marshall opens Conference USA play next Saturday at Charlotte (0-5, 0-1 C-USA).
"We needed this," Yurachek said. "We couldn't have scripted a better 60 minutes than we did tonight."