Oct. 21, 2007
HUNTINGTON, W. Va. - Marshall came close Sunday night but was unable to piece together a monster comeback attempt, falling 33-24 to Southern Miss in front of a national television audience and 27,234 fans in Joan C. Edwards Stadium.
The Herd fell to 0-7 and 0-3 in Conference USA while the Eagles improved to 4-3 overall and maintained their position in atop the C-USA Eastern Division with a 3-1 league mark.
Sophomore Damien Fletcher powered the USM ground game, gaining 152 of the Eagles' 160 rushing yards on 30 carries. USM quarterback Steven Reaves was extremely efficient, completing 23 of 30 passes for 310 yards and one touchdown with no interceptions.
Marshall was hurt once again by a slow start as the Eagles raced out to a 20-0 lead in the first 20 minutes of play. The Herd outscored USM over the final three quarters but was simply unable to string together the necessary plays to pull out the win.
Senior Bernard Morris added to his already gaudy season passing total, racking up 309 yards and completing 20 of 38 attempts Sunday. Darius Marshall and Chubb Small combined to rush for 116 yards on 19 carries.
USM jumped on Marshall early, forcing the Herd into a three-and-out on the game's opening possession. The Eagles then took the lead by going 68 yards in three plays, capped by a 36-yard touchdown run by Fletcher. The USM lead was 6-0 after Marshall defensive lineman Byron Tinker blocked the USM point after attempt.
The Herd looked to have something going on its second possession as MU moved into to Southern Miss territory for the first time. On fourth and four at the USM 23-yard line quarterback Bernard Morris was pressured out of the pocket and stopped for no gain.
Marshall moved backwards on its next drive and was forced to punt from its own eight, setting up USM with excellent field position at the Herd 41-yard line. The Eagles made quick work of the situation as Fletcher carried the ball five straight times, ending with a two yard scoring plunge up the middle.
MU began to march again on its next drive. The Herd moved all the way to the USM 15, but Morris' third down pass was tipped by an Eagle defender and then intercepted by Justin Wilson.
On the first play of the ensuing drive, Reaves dropped back and hit wide out Torris Magee, who broke to the inside and then cut up the middle for an 85-yard touchdown.
The Herd finally answered as the offense moved into USM territory for a third consecutive possession, this time settling for a season-long 39-yard field goal from Anthony Binswanger.
Momentum took a dramatic shift as the Herd defense forced a three-and-out and Ashton Hall blocked the Eagles' punt. Marshall took over deep in USM territory and on third down Morris rolled out and found Slate for 27-yard touchdown strike moving the score to 20-10.
The Marshall defense shut down USM once again as Herd linebacker Mario Harvey knifed his way into the backfield and stuck Fletcher for a three-yard loss on third down. Marshall was looking for another score but Robert Henderson forced Morris to fumble the ball, which was then recovered by the Eagles' Martavius Prince.
USM was unable to capitalize on the turnover and punter Britt Barefoot pinned the Herd at its own one-yard line.
Starting from the shadow of its own goal post with just over a minute left in the half, MU moved the ball out to the 16 behind the running of Darius Marshall. Morris took a shot down the field with just seconds left on the clock, but his pass was intercepted and the first half came to an end.
The Eagles extended the lead to 23-10 on the opening drive of the half, moving 66 yards in nine plays to set up Justin Estes' first field goal of the game.
After forcing MU to punt on the next possession, USM moved right back down the field with a steady mix of running and play action. The Herd defense eventually stiffened and forced USM to settle for another Estes field goal.
The teams exchanged punts and Marshall eventually took over on its 21 with 3:36 left to play in the third quarter. The Herd offense suddenly kicked into gear as Small ripped off a 30-yard gain and Morris hit Edmonson for a 33-yard pass down the sideline. Two plays later Darius Marshall found a whole on a draw play and scampered eight yards for touchdown.
The Eagles' began to slowly work their way down the field converting on several third and long situations, but the MU defense finally stonewalled USM at the Marshall 45-yard line.
Marshall cut the deficit to two points when Morris hit Passmore streaking down the sideline for a 47-yard strike.
A fired up Herd defense came on to the field and stifled USM, forcing a punt, but MU was unable to take advantage and had to give the ball back to the Eagles after a three-and-out.
Marshall appeared to have USM stopped after just three plays but a pass interference call kept the drive alive. The Eagles went on to run 13 plays and eat up 5:56 of clock, ending the drive with Fletcher's third rushing score of the game.
On MU's final possesion Morris was intercepted and USM was able to run out the clock.