Marshall defeats FIU, 28-25
MIAMI -- Saturday’s football contest at FIU wasn’t the prettiest Marshall University, but the Thundering Herd made plays when it needed to.
Marshall used a timely rushing attack to salt away the final possession of the game, thwarting an FIU comeback attempt in a 28-25 win over the Panthers at Riccardo Silva Stadium. Brenden Knox had a pair of big runs to cap the Herd’s win and quarterback Isaiah Green scrambled for a first down on a third-and-3 to extend final possession. Marshall (8-3, 6-2 Conference USA) earned a share of the C-USA East Division title in a three-way tie with FIU and Middle Tennessee. Middle Tennessee will represent the East Division in the C-USA Championship Game on Saturday based on tiebreakers. The game came down to a wild ending with each team going back-and-forth. After Marshall’s Tyre Brady caught a 3-yard touchdown pass to push the Marshall lead to 28-18, FIU answered right back to again make it a field goal game following a 1-yard plunge from Napoleon Maxwell. Maxwell’s score came after FIU got a huge fourth-down conversion to move inside the Herd 5.Marshall’s defense forced a fourth-and-10 from the Herd 42 after Ryan Bee’s pressure got to Christian Alexander.With the Herd in an all-out blitz, starting quarterback James Morgan came back into the game and completed a slip screen to C.J. Worton that went for 39 yards to keep the Panthers’ chances of a division title alive.Trailing by two scores in the fourth, FIU head coach Butch Davis pulled Morgan in favor of Alexander and the gutsy move paid off as he led the Panthers to a touchdown and two-point conversion to make it a three-point game. Alexander kept the ball on a 9-yard scoring run and then caught the two-point conversion pass from running back Maurice Alexander to get the Panthers back into it. The third quarter was a myriad of errors on both sides, but Marshall was able to extend its lead to two scores after Brandon Drayton blocked a punt and recovered it in the end zone for a score, marking the fourth consecutive week the Herd punt block team had a big play that led to a score.Drayton’s punt block and score flipped momentum after Green was intercepted by Richard Dames inside the FIU 10-yard line. It was Dames’ second interception of the third quarter after he also dove to pick off Green on the first play of the second half.Marshall’s defense and special teams rallied to the offense’s aid by continuously making plays throughout the game.Following Dames’ first interception, Marshall’s Juwon Young blocked a field goal attempt by Jose Borregales to turn the ball back over to the Herd and Donyae Moody atoned for a prior interception drop when he skied for a 50-50 ball after FIU’s James Morgan was hit by Herd defensive end Ty Tyler.Coming into the contest, FIU was a team that led C-USA in efficiency, but Marshall was able to force the Panthers into several errors. Marshall took a 14-10 lead into the halftime locker room after each team bled momentum late in the first half.With just seconds left in the half, FIU squandered an opportunity to take the lead and then a chance to score when a false start penalty inside the 10-yard line preceded a missed 28-yard field goal by Borregales, who had not missed from inside of 30 yards all season.Borregales’ miss countered a 25-yard miss by Marshall’s Justin Rohrwasser on the possession prior for the Herd, who looked to increase its lead back to two scores.Marshall drove down to the FIU 2-yard line and a false start penalty stalled the drive prior to Rohrwasser’s miss.It was the continuation of red zone troubles for the Herd, which stalled on several occasions against UTSA in a win last week.Marshall’s offensive struggles in the second quarter were a contrast to the Herd’s fast start, which got the team out to a quick 14-3 lead.The Herd took the opening kickoff and drove 80 yards in six plays -- all passes -- with Green completing five of six throws and capping the drive with a 16-yard touchdown pass to Brady.Following that drive, the defense provided a score off a rare FIU mistake. On a third-down attempt, Morgan tried to fire a short pass over the middle and linebacker Omari Cobb stepped in front of the pass and returned it 25 yards for a score to make it 14-0 with 4:41 left in the first quarter.Morgan settled in later to lead the Panthers to 10 straight points on drives of 70 and 59 yards that led to a 22-yard Borregales field goal and a 1-yard touchdown run by Anthony Jones with 11:25 left in the half.FIU was able to establish a rushing attack against the Herd -- something opponents had struggled to do.