MCGILL: @HerdFB Comeback Spoiled By UTSA Game-Winning Field Goal
The Word on the Herd
By Chuck McGill
SAN ANTONIO -- The defensive battle of the Alamodome went the way of the hosts.
UTSA, which entered Saturday's game No. 1 in Conference USA in total defense, passing defense and fewest plays of 10 or more yards allowed, bottled up the Marshall offense in a 9-7 victory here Saturday night at the Alamodome.
The Thundering Herd (7-4, 4-3 Conference USA) was held scoreless in the opening half for the first time this season, and then couldn't hang onto a 1-point fourth quarter lead in front of a spirited crowd of 20,148.
UTSA kicker Jared Sackett drilled a 40-yard field goal with two seconds left to give the Roadrunners (6-4, 3-4 C-USA) the win and spoil Marshall's comeback.
After the Herd trailed for 46 minutes and 29 seconds, the MU offense finally scored and avoided a shutout for the first time in 17 seasons.
Down 6-0, quarterback Chase Litton engineered an eight-play, 74-yard drive that culminated with a 20-yard touchdown pass to Hyleck Foster, who was forced into action because of the Herd's depleted receiving corps. Litton found Foster in single coverage on the right side of the end zone, and Foster was able to drag his feet inbounds for his first touchdown of the season.
The touchdown came with 1:31 left of the game and gave the Herd a 7-6 lead. That left UTSA enough time to stage of comeback of its own.
Quarterback Dalton Sturm helped the Roadrunners cover 52 yards in 10 plays, which set up Sackett's game-ending heroics. The kick sailed through the uprights with room to spare and to the delight of the rowdy dome crowd.
Sturm finished 25 of 38 passing for 264 yards and added another 25 yards on 11 carries. That was good enough for UTSA, which won its regular season home finale without the benefit of a touchdown.
The Marshall offense struggled throughout the game. In the Herd's first six offensive possessions, it gained no more than 21 yards on any drive. One of those possessions brought the conclusion of the first half, while the others ended in three punts, a fumble and an interception.
MU's first drive of more than 40 yards came in the third quarter when it took nine plays to cover 41 yards. That drive also ended in a punt.
The Herd had an opportunity to take the lead in the fourth quarter when Litton connected with sophomore Obi Obialo on a 43-yard strike to the UTSA 37. After an incomplete pass, two Tyler King runs and a false start penalty, MU coach Doc Holliday elected to go for it on fourth down. Litton's deep ball to Obialo, who tried to maneuver and make the catch at the goal line, fell incomplete and gave UTSA the ball with 9:16 left of the game.
The Marshall offense had one more opportunity after a lengthy UTSA drive failed to end in points. The Roadrunners put together an eight-play, 47-yard drive that burned 5:02 off the clock, but when UTSA lined up for a 34-yard field goal, the snap went through the holder's hands and Marshall took over on downs at the 26. That drive ended with the Herd's only touchdown.
The Herd's defense limited the UTSA offense. A forced turnover in the third quarter kept the game in reach when defensive tackle Channing Hames stripped running back Tyrell Clay at the 5-yard line, and freshman linebacker Jaquan Yulee recovered the ball at the 4. That thwarted UTSA's chance to move the margin beyond one possession.
Marshall lost for the first time this season when forcing at least one turnover. The Herd entered Saturday's game 7-0 when forcing at least one turnover, and 0-3 when it does not.
The first half featured more combined possessions than combined points.
UTSA, first in Conference USA in time of possession, showed why on its opening drive of the game. The Roadrunners held the ball for 16 plays and 8:45, nearly two minutes longer than any possession against the Herd defense this season. Marshall, however, made a defensive stand after UTSA had first and goal from the 5-yard line, and the Roadrunners settled for a field goal.
Those were the only points of the first quarter.
UTSA added 3 more points just before halftime after having a drive stall at MU's 7-yard line.
Sackett's first two field goals -- both 24 yards -- accounted for the only points of the first half.
UTSA outgained Marshall 355 to 229.
Litton finished 16 of 23 passing for 189 yards, one touchdown and one interception. Keion Davis led the Marshall ground game with 12 carries and 41 yards. Obialo stepped up in the absence of receivers Tyre Brady and Marcel Williams, who both missed the game, and caught six passes for 80 yards.
Safety Malik Gant led the Herd with 16 tackles, including 12 solo. Safety C.J. Reavis finished with 15 tackles, including 2.5 for a loss.
UTSA is now bowl eligible.