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VT drops Marshall

December 3, 2018
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Marshall head coach Doc Holliday looks to an official after a play as the Herd takes on Virginia Tech during an NCAA football game on Saturday at Lane Stadium in Blacksburg, Va.

VIRGINIA TECH 41, MARSHALL 20

BLACKSBURG, Va. — When Marshall University and Virginia Tech lined up for Saturday’s football contest at Lane Stadium, a dense fog settled over the field in the early December chill.

As the first half settled in and the elements lifted, however, it appeared the Thundering Herd was the only team playing in a fog.

Early miscues by the Herd paved the way for Virginia Tech to establish momentum early and the Hokies didn’t look back, earning a 41-20 win over Marshall in front of 31,336 spectators.

“Give Virginia Tech credit,” Marshall head coach Doc Holliday said. “They played well and we made too many mistakes and got ourselves in too big of a hole in that first half to get back.”

MORE ON THE GAME

• Chuck Landon Grades the Herd

• Grant Traylor’s Game Balls

• MU Notebook: Herd-Hokies feels like home for VT’s Gwinn

• Statistics from the MU, VT game

SEE MORE PHOTOS at www.herald-dispatch.com

Virginia Tech moved to 6-6 on the season and extended its FBS-best consecutive bowl game streak to 26 years. The loss dropped bowl-bound Marshall to 8-4 and ended a three-game winning streak.

Marshall trailed nearly as soon as the game began as turnovers on each of its first two possessions led to 10 Virginia Tech points.

As has been the case in recent weeks, Marshall’s offense struggled to capitalize in the red zone.

In addition to quarterback Isaiah Green’s interception on the Herd’s second drive, Marshall had a pair of drives end after failed fourth-and-1 runs in Virginia Tech territory, including one with just less than 10 minutes left that essentially ended any chance of a Herd comeback.

“Any time you turn the ball over and those lead to points, it’s hard to dig out of that because there’s the points they score, but it’s also the points we didn’t because we lost possessions,” Marshall senior offensive lineman Jordan Dowrey said. “That stuff hurt us big. In any game, it’s hard to come back from that. Against a good team, we beat ourselves early.”

The offensive numbers were comparable with Virginia Tech holding a slight 454 yards to 452 edge in total yardage. However, while Marshall squandered opportunities, Virginia Tech made the most of its chances.

Behind the play of quarterback Ryan Willis, Virginia Tech erupted for 21 points in the second quarter to take a 31-6 lead into the locker room. Willis finished the game 18 of 26 for 312 passing yards and four touchdowns — all in the first half.

“He threw the ball extremely well and the receivers made plays,” Holliday said. “I hadn’t seen that all year out of those guys. Don’t get me wrong, they’ve got good wideouts and that quarterback has done some good things, but he was about as accurate today against us as he has been all year, unfortunately.”

The Hokies were able to get chunk plays against the Marshall defense and Willis finished the first half with as many touchdowns (four) as incomplete passes, with the scoring passes all going to different receivers.

The final blow of the half came with 1:12 left as wide receiver Eric Kumah used a double-move to gain separation from Marshall’s Chris Jackson before hauling in a 32-yard scoring strike that gave Willis his career-high for touchdowns in a game before halftime.

Willis’ ability to stand in the pocket and deliver served him well early against the Herd. In the second quarter, Willis danced in the pocket before throwing deep to Tre Turner for a 45-yard score that flipped momentum back to the Hokies.

Prior to that, Marshall had gotten momentum in the form of Brenden Knox, who continued his strong play in the backfield.

Knox erupted through the line for a 67-yard run before capping the drive with a 2-yard plunge to get the Herd within 34-6 on the final play of the first quarter.

For Knox, it was his third game eclipsing 100 rushing yards in just four total games of carrying the football in his Marshall career.

Knox finished with 204 yards and two touchdowns. His 5-yard run with 1:43 left capped the scoring. The game started poorly for the Herd as Green had turnovers on each of the team’s first two possessions.

On the first play from scrimmage, Virginia Tech’s Ricky Walker hit Green, forcing a fumble that TyJuan Garbett jumped on. After the Hokies turned that into a 32-yard field goal from Brian Johnson, Marshall drove the length of the field on Virginia Tech’s defense, only to see the red zone woes continue as Green forced a throw into the end zone for Obi Obialo that Bryce Watts intercepted.

“We’ve just got to continue to try to get better and execute when we get in the red zone,” Green said. “That’s obviously been the main problem for the offense. Other than that, I feel like we played a pretty good game.”

Following the interception, Willis quickly drove the Hokies down the field, connecting with Hezekiah Grimsley on a 46-yard pass to push the lead to two scores.

Green finished the game 19 of 34 for 220 yards. He threw a 34-yard touchdown to Xavier Gaines on the first play of the fourth quarter.

In addition to the lost possession, Marshall also finished with 11 penalties for 67 yards in the loss.

Marshall now waits to find out its bowl assignment, which will become known Sunday afternoon.

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