Nov. 21, 2009
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - True freshman wide receiver Aaron Dobson hauled in four passes for a career-high 127 yards and two touchdowns as the Thundering Herd football team became bowl eligible with a 34-31 win over SMU Saturday evening at Joan C. Edwards Stadium.
Dobson caught a 40-yard pass from Brian Anderson in the third quarter before catching what would prove to be a game-winning 16-yard touchdown pass with two minutes remaining.
Dobson was just one of several young players who stepped up in the absence of Marshall's top two offensive threats: running back Darius Marshall and tight end Cody Slate. Marshall, who has 1,097 yards rushing this season, did not play due to an ankle injury and Slate, a Mackey Award candidate and the teams leading receiver, did not play due to an ACL tear he suffered in last week's game with Southern Miss.
Points came at a premium in the first half as each team notched just ten points prior to halftime. SMU (6-5, 5-2 C-USA) got the scoring started on its second drive as Shawnbrey McNeal scored from a yard out to put SMU on the board.
Marshall (6-5, 4-3 C-USA) fought right back, scoring a touchdown on its next possession to tie the game. Redshirt freshman Martin Ward, who rushed for a career-high 136 yards in the game, capped off an 11-play, 92-yard drive with a two-yard touchdown plunge. The key play of that drive came on a 2nd down play from the 50 yard-line as Anderson found Aaron Dobson for a 48-yard gain to the 2.
Each team would add a field goal in the second period as the game would be tied at 10-10 at the half.
The offenses shined in the third quarter as touchdowns were scored on the first three possessions of the second half. After receiving the kickoff, the Herd took the ball 75 yards over ten plays with Terrell Edwards-Maye capping off the drive with an 8-yard score.
The Mustangs came right back to tie the game at 17-all as quarterback Kyle Padron found wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders for a 43-yard hookup. The 64-yard drive took just 1:33 off the clock.
Failing to relent, Marshall retook the lead less than three minutes later. On a drive that started at the MU 13 yard-line, Edwards-Maye started things off with an 18-yard run, followed by another for nine yards. Five plays later, Brian Anderson found Aaron Dobson, who outmuscled an SMU defender, for a 40-yard touchdown to put Marshall up 24-17.
Marshall extended its lead to 27-17 with 8:55 left in the fourth quarter as Craig Ratanamorn hit his second field goal of the contest. After nailing a 50-yarder, his season long and matching his career long, in the second quarter, Ratanamorn hit one from 42 yards to put the Herd up by ten.
SMU continued to claw its way back, scoring a touchdown on the ensuing drive. Padron found Aldrick Robinson for a 12-yard touchdown as the Mustangs put together another quick drive, covering 60 yards in just seven plays to cut the lead to three, 27-24.
With 2:01 remaining in the game, Marshall looked to put the game out of reach as Dobson caught his second touchdown of the game, this one a 16-yarder, to go back up by two scores, 34-24, but the Mustangs had one more fight left, cutting the lead back to three, 34-31. SMU moved the ball 64 yards on a quick drive of 1:21. Running back Zach Line scored a nine-yarder to keep the game alive for the Mustangs.
The momentum was short-lived, however, as the onside kick attempt was recovered by the Herd with 40 seconds remaining, sealing the game for Marshall and making the team bowl eligible for the first time since the 2004 season.
Brian Anderson had a solid outing for MU, completing 13-of-22 passes for 213 yards and two scores. He did not throw an interception. Kyle Padron of SMU was 18-32 for 225 yards. He also threw two touchdowns, but was picked off once and sacked five times.
Dobson was the leading receiver in the game with 127 yards. Emmanuel Sanders and Cole Beasley finished with 94 yards apiece for SMU.
Marshall had two rushers finish with over 100 yards rushing for the first time since Ahmad Bradshaw and Bernard Morris accomplished the feat in a win over Hofstra on Sept. 9, 2006. Martin Ward was the game's top rusher, taking the ball 25 times for 136 yards. Terrell Edwards-Maye had 22 carries for 113 yards, a career-high for the sophomore.
The Herd will look to guarantee a spot in a postseason bowl as it travels to UTEP next weekend. Should the Herd grab its seventh win of the season against the Miners, it would be guaranteed its first bowl berth since the 2004 Fort Worth Bowl. The Herd and the Miners square off at 3 p.m. ET at the Sun Bowl. WSAZ will televise the contest.
· Marshall is now conditionally bowl eligible for the first time since the 2004 season when the team posted a 6-6 record after earning a berth in the Fort Worth Bowl.
· Marshall played the game without its leading rusher (Darius Marshall) and leading receiver (Cody Slate) who missed the game due to injuries.
· Marshall had two rushers finish with over 100 yards rushing for the first time since Ahmad Bradshaw and Bernard Morris accomplished the feat in a win over Hofstra on Sept. 9, 2006. Martin Ward was the game's top rusher, taking the ball 25 times for 136 yards. Terrell Edwards-Maye had 22 carries for 113 yards, a career-high for the sophomore.
· Marshalll senior kicker Craig Ratanamorn, a Lou Groza Award semi-finalist, connected on a season-long 50-yard field goal and later nailed a 42-yard field goal. He did miss his first field goal of the season, due in part to a false start penalty. Ratanamorn made a 31-yard field goal only to have it wiped out by a false start - he then missed his first kick of the year - wide right from 36-yards. Despite that, he is still an impressive 15-of-16 on field goals and a perfect 28-of-28 on PATs.