MCGILL: TD Passes, Defense Lead Herd to First League Win Over Charlotte
Tyre Brady had six receptions for 88 yards and two touchdowns
Photo Gallery (Courtesy: Tim Cowie)
By Chuck McGill
CHARLOTTE - Marshall avenged one of its 2016 losses, but the focus here Saturday night at Jerry Richardson Stadium was on two important items on the team's checklist: a win on the road and a win in Conference USA.
The Thundering Herd opened league play with a 14-3 win at Charlotte, improving to 4-1 overall after picking up the team's third consecutive win.
The pair of touchdown connections from Chase Litton to Tyre Brady highlighted the offensive performance, while the defense pitched a first half shutout for the third consecutive game and limited Charlotte to 212 yards of offense and 4.1 yards per play.
Marshall opened scoring in the first quarter when Litton connected with Brady, who made an over-the-shoulder catch in the end zone for a 37-yard touchdown to make it 7-0, Herd, with 6:25 left. The touchdown extended Litton's streak of consecutive games with a touchdown pass to 26 games, the second-longest active streak among FBS quarterbacks. Oklahoma's Baker Mayfield extended his nation-leading streak to 31 games on Saturday.
The Herd blanked the 49ers (0-6, 0-2 C-USA) in the first quarter - the third consecutive game the defense has accomplished that feat. Overall, MU has outscored its opponents 31-6 in the first quarter, allowing only two field goals and zero interceptions through the first five games.
Marshall held Charlotte to 57 yards on 19 plays in the first quarter, which included three punts and a turnover. The turnover came when sophomore cornerback Chris Jackson intercepted Charlotte QB Hasaan Klugh, but Jackson fumbled the ball on the return and Charlotte regained possession. The interception was Jackson's fifth in 17 career games.
A pair of offensive players surpassed milestones in the first quarter. Junior running back Keion Davis eclipsed 1,000 career rushing yards on his first carry of the game, a 9-yard run. Senior tight end Yurachek, who last week surpassed 100 career receptions and had his first career three-touchdown game, surpassed 1,000 career receiving yards on a 4-yard catch on the second drive of the game.
The scoreboard didn't receive much of a workout in the second quarter, either. Marshall missed a chance to push its lead to double digits when Kaare Vedvik missed a 39-yard field goal wide left. Another drive ended on downs when Litton found Yurachek on fourth and 5, but Yurachek came up a half-yard short of a first down and Charlotte took over at its own 23.
The Herd entered halftime with a 7-0 lead and 208 yards of total offense - 98 on the ground and 110 through the air.
Marshall stretched its lead to 14-0 with 9:14 left in the third quarter when Litton found Brady again, this time for an 11-yard score in the back left part of the end zone to cap a seven-play, 72-yard drive. It is Brady's first multi-touchdown game with the Herd, and he now has a team-high four receiving touchdowns through five games.
The 49ers finally cracked into the scoring on the ensuing drive, going 62 yards in nine play before Nigel Macauley made a 30-yard field goal to make it 14-3 with 5:20 left of the third.
Charlotte missed a 32-yard field goal with 4:40 left that would have made it a one possession game. The kick sailed wide left and the Herd took over at the 20.
The Marshall defense shined again Saturday night, limiting Charlotte's offense throughout the game. In addition to Jackson's interception, defensive tackle Ryan Bee recorded a full sack and first-time starter Juwon Young combined on a sack with fellow starting linebacker Artis Johnson. Jackson, Young, senior cornerback Rodney Allen and defensive lineman Ty Tyler all recorded pass breakups.
Only one of Charlotte's first 11 drives gained more than 20 yards, and six of those 11 drives failed to gain at least 10 yards. Eight of Charlotte's first 11 drives ended with a punt.
Offensively, Litton threw two touchdown passes and did not have an interception. The Herd improved to 8-0 in Litton's career when he has a multi-touchdown/zero-interception game. Davis keyed the Herd's rushing attack and surpassed 100 yards on the ground for the first time in his career. Yurachek hauled in a career-high seven passes to lead the receiving game, although Brady added six catches for 88 yards and two scores. The offensive line did not allow a sack for the third consecutive game.
Marshall had three first-time starters: two on offense and one on defense. Redshirt freshmen Will Ulmer (left tackle) and Cody Mitchell (tight end) joined the offense for the first play of the game. Young, a transfer from the University of Miami who sat out last season and the first four games of this season, started at linebacker. Young made five starts at Miami in 2015, but this was his MU debut.
The Herd returns to action next Saturday, Oct. 14, when it hosts Old Dominion for Homecoming weekend. ODU is 2-3 overall and has lost three consecutive games.