MCGILL: Senior Night Ends in Heartbreak as Herd Falls to USM
The Word on the Herd
By Chuck McGill
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. – Most Marshall players had solemnly made their way into the Shewey Building beyond the north end zone, but one person took a knee alone on the logo at midfield as tears filled his eyes.
That player, senior tight end Ryan Yurachek, scored three touchdowns, including a potential-tying score with 1:15 left of his final game at Joan C. Edwards Stadium. Instead, Yurachek watched as a miscue on the point after attempt prevented a tie, and visiting Southern Mississippi left here with a 28-27 win on Saturday.
“This one hurts,” Yurachek said afterward.
Indeed, for the second time in eight days, the Marshall offense marched down the field inside of two minutes left of regulation and staring at a deficit. Last Saturday at UTSA, the Herd offense scored a go-ahead touchdown with 1:31 left, but watched as the Roadrunners kicked a game-winning field goal with 2 seconds on the clock.
This time, Marshall trailed 28-21 and started a drive with 2:22 left, and the offense covered 58 yards on six plays before quarterback Chase Litton found Yurachek in the back right corner of the end zone to make it 28-27. Moments later, the holder could not corral the snap for kicker Kaare Vedvik, and was forced into a desperation heave toward the end zone.
Marshall (7-5, 4-4 Conference USA) lost its last two games of the season by a combined 3 points.
“We’ve had a tough couple of weeks,” Marshall coach Doc Holliday said. “There’s no doubt those were two tough losses.”
Southern Miss (8-4, 6-2 C-USA) struck first when running back Ito Smith scored from 3 yards out to open a 7-0 lead. Smith carried the ball 29 times for 150 yards.
The Herd evened the score with 5:15 left of the second quarter when Litton tossed the first of his four touchdown passes. He found freshman receiver Willie Johnson for a 26-yard connection to culminate a 10-play, 87-yard drive.
USM regained the lead two minutes later when quarterback Kwadra Griggs connected with Korey Robertson for a 16-yard touchdown to make it 14-7 with 3:42 left.
Marshall answered before the half when Litton found Yurachek for the first of their three touchdown connections. That ended a quick three-play, 48-yard drive to make it 14-14 with 2:13 left before halftime.
The Herd opened its first lead early in the third quarter on another Litton-to-Yurachek play. The 11-yard pass-and-catch with 11:31 left of the third quarter made it 21-14, MU.
Southern Miss tied it at 21-21 late in the third quarter when Griggs found Allenzae Staggers on a 3-yarder with 1:54 left of the period. USM regained the lead with 9:44 left of the fourth on another Griggs-to-Staggers connection, this one from 9 yards out.
The loss was Marshall’s fourth in five games and was the final home game for 12 seniors and one junior, Eli Gates, who is forgoing his final year of eligibility to pursue an opportunity outside of football.
“I like this football team a lot,” Holliday said. “They’ve played extremely hard. We’ve got to get smarter and take care of the ball. This team has never had an issue about showing up and playing. I’m proud of them for that.”
Litton completed 26 of 44 passes for 308 yards and four touchdowns. He passed Herd QB great Michael Payton in career completions and career touchdown passes, and Litton threw for at least 300 yards for the ninth time in his career.
Yurachek was the QB’s favorite target. The senior tight end from Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, tied a career-high with seven receptions for 56 yards. It is his second three-touchdown game of the season (at Cincinnati), and the most touchdowns he’s ever had at home.
“I would have rather have caught five balls for negative-100 yards and negative touchdowns and had all my stats swept away than to lose that game,” Yurachek said. “There’s absolutely no satisfaction in how I played. It doesn’t matter. I wanted to win this one not only for myself, but for the 12 other guys I was fortunate enough to take the field with one last time today.
The Marshall offense was without leading receiver Tyre Brady, who missed his second straight game, as well as receivers Nick Mathews and Gator Green. Receiver Marcel Williams, who sat out last week’s game with an injury, played briefly against USM but appeared to depart with an injury.
Litton instead found a connection with another senior who was honored prior to the game – Hyleck Foster. The former running back caught five passes for a career high 87 yards, including a 26-yarder on the final drive. He also had a career long 42-yard reception.
“We left everything out on the field,” Foster said. “We made it here as a team and we lost as a team.
“When my number is called, I’m ready,” he added. “It doesn’t matter when, what or where, I’m ready.”
Junior linebacker Chase Hancock led the Marshall defense with a career high 18 tackles.
Marshall will now rest and await its bowl fate. The Thundering Herd is 4-0 in bowl games under Holliday.
Until then, another narrow loss will sting.
“We wanted to send (the seniors) out the right way,” Litton said. “You want to win for those guys, the coaching staff, the people who support us. That’s all we want to do is win.”