It didn’t rain on Herd’s parade

December 21, 2018

TAMPA, Fla. - Mother Nature can be one cruel dame.

Just look at the havoc the old girl wreaked with Marshall University’s football program this week.

Granted, Mother Nature didn’t keep the Thundering Herd from defeating South Florida, 38-20, Thursday night before a small turnout of thoroughly soaked spectators in Raymond James Stadium.

But she tried.

Oh, how she tried.

Marshall was cruising nicely with a 21-7 lead late in the first quarter. Then, with only 25 seconds remaining, Mother Nature cut loose.

Suddenly, sheets of rain started blowing through and through and through the stadium, scattering the Gasparilla Bowl’s small, but hearty, group of spectators.

That’s not all she scattered, either.

Mother Nature must have a side job as a fry cook at a Waffle House because she also scattered, smothered and covered Marshall’s momentum.

Why, she rallied the South Florida Bulls like a USO singer.

Just look at what happened.

n Twenty-one of Marshall’s 28 points in the first half came in the first quarter before the rains came.

n Marshall had 290 yards of total offense in the first half, but 212 came in the first quarter.

n Marshall had 132 yards rushing in the first half, but 95 of the yards came in the first quarter.

n Marshall had 158 yards passing in the first half, but 117 of the yards were in the first quarter.

n Marshall ran 37 plays in the first half, but 21 were in the first quarter.

n Marshall’s redshirt freshman running back sensation Brenden Knox rushed for 93 yards in the first half, but 65 of his yards were in the first quarter.

n Most important, Marshall scored 28 points in the first half, but 21 came in the first quarter.

While Mother Nature’s liquid sunshine seemed to wash all the doldrums away for South Florida, she didn’t do anything but rain on Marshall’s parade.

Maybe it’s because the Tampa-based Bulls are accustomed to Mother Nature’s penchant for torrential rains. Maybe not.

But it was difficult to argue with the scoreboard.

Before the monsoon struck, Marshall led 21-7. After the torrents of rain began, South Florida actually outscored the Thundering Herd 13-10 by the end of the third quarter.

What happened then?

Either Marshall finally dried out or South Florida dried up.

The result was the Thundering Herd put together a masterful 11-play, 64-yard drive that took 5:47 off the turning clock. Senior running back Keion Davis delivered the significant ray of sunshine by bursting 16 yards up the middle for his second touchdown of the game with 6:24 remaining in the fourth quarter.

That reigned on South Florida’s parade.

It was about time considering the havoc Mother Nature wreaked with Marshall’s travel plans Sunday, turning an anticipated 11:20 a.m. arrival time in Tampa into an eventual 7 p.m. landing.

The Herd took the old girl’s best shots. And look what Marshall got in return.

Despite playing its last three games on the road, Marshall won two and finished with nine wins.

But here’s the big thunderclap, Mom Nature.

Marshall did something that, perhaps, no other college football team ever has accomplished.

“I’ve been in 27 bowl games,” said MU coach Doc Holliday, “and this is the first time I’ve had to play a team at home.”

That’s right, Marshall won a bowl game Thursday night on the opponent’s home field.

It just might be a first.

Chuck Landon is a sports columnist for The Herald-Dispatch. Contact him at clandon@herald-dispatch.com.

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