MCGILL: @HerdFB Puts All Phases Together in National TV Win
The Word on the Herd
By Chuck McGill
MURFREESBORO, Tenn. - The Friday night lights weren't too bright for Marshall.
The Thundering Herd put together an impressive performance in front of an ESPN2 nationally televised audience here at Floyd Stadium, winning its fifth consecutive game and gaining bowl eligibility with a 38-10 win at Middle Tennessee. Marshall improved to 6-1 overall and 3-0 in Conference USA play, the third time in four seasons the program has opened league competition with three straight victories.
The Herd scored first for the fifth time this season, and improved to 5-0 when it does so. MU built a three-touchdown lead by halftime, 31-10, thanks to a trio of rushing touchdowns and a defensive score from an interception. The Blue Raiders (3-5, 1-3 Conference USA) struggled again with turnovers, and the visitors turned a pair of MT miscues into 14 points in a 96-second span early in the second quarter.
The win assures Marshall will be one of two undefeated C-USA teams entering the final weekend of October. Florida Atlantic (3-3, 2-0) hosts North Texas (4-2, 3-0) on Saturday in a game that could shape the conference landscape. For now, MU is alone atop the East Division after it overwhelmed the Blue Raiders in one of Friday night's four FBS games.
The momentum swung for good early in the second quarter when, on third and nine at MT's 19, sophomore defensive lineman Ty Tyler hit quarterback John Urzua, causing the ball to wobble through the air well short of the intended target. Junior linebacker Artis Johnson was waiting at the 17 with open arms, and scampered untouched for a defensive touchdown to give MU a 14-3 lead with 13:24 left of the second quarter.
Johnson's touchdown was the fifth non-offensive score produced by Marshall - three on special teams and two on defense - in seven games this season.
The Herd's lead ballooned to 18 points less than two minutes later after sophomore linebacker Omari Cobb forced a fumble, which was scooped by fellow linebacker Chase Hancock. That set up the Marshall offense inside the Blue Raiders' 20, and three plays later junior running back Keion Davis took a handoff and moseyed into the end zone untouched to make it 21-3 with 11:48 left of the second quarter.
Marshall opened scoring when freshman running back Tyler King bounced to the left and followed blocks into the end zone for a 15-yard touchdown run. The touchdown was King's third of the season and second in as many weeks, and it gave the Herd a 7-0 lead.
The offense kept the drive alive thanks to a defensive holding penalty on third down and a second effort by tight end Ryan Yurachek on another third down. Yurachek's 5-yard reception extended his streak of consecutive games with a catch to 36.
Middle Tennessee answered with a 50-yard field goal by Canon Rooker. The Herd defense held the Blue Raiders when defensive tackle Channing Hames sacked quarterback John Urzua on third down.
The Herd continued to pressure Urzua, sacking him three times in the first half and hurrying him on countless other plays.
Urzua finally found some success when he completed a 33-yard pass to Ty Lee, and then one play later found Richie James for a 9-yard touchdown to make it 21-10, MU. The touchdown was the first allowed by the Marshall defense in Conference USA play this season, and the first TD scored by an opponent in the first half since Marshall's non-conference game at N.C. State on Sept. 9.
The Marshall offense picked its defense up on the ensuing drive as Litton engineered an eight-play, 63-yard march that ended with Davis' second rushing touchdown of the game. That made the score 28-10 with 3:19 left of the second quarter.
Kaare Vedvik added a 25-yard field goal with 17 seconds left of the half to push the lead back to three scores, 31-10.
Marshall protected the ball and controlled the clock in the second half. King soared past 100 rushing yards for the second time this season (five games played), and eclipsed at least 70 rushing yards for the fourth time. He added a second rushing touchdown with 12:47 left of the fourth quarter to give the Herd a 38-10 lead.
King's touchdown was the fourth by Marshall, the first time since Nov. 8, 2014 at Southern Mississippi the team has rushed for as many touchdowns in a single game.
Litton saw his streak of consecutive with a touchdown pass end at 35 games, but he continued to move up career passing lists. In the first quarter he passed Carl Fodor (6,655 yards) in career passing yardage, and now ranks No. 7 in program history in that category.
The MU defense had a slew of impressive performances: Johnson's interception, the Cobb-Hancock turnover combination, and at least a partial sack from defensive linemen Ryan Bee, Channing Hames, Marquis Couch and Ty Tyler, as well as freshman linebacker Jaquan Yulee. Hames finished with two sacks.
The defense combined for at least five sacks for the ninth time in Doc Holliday's eight seasons as head coach.