Herd falls to MT, 34-24
HUNTINGTON — Last week, Marshall University’s football team made plenty of mistakes and was able to escape against Western Kentucky.
On Friday night, the Thundering Herd ran out of luck after missed opportunities against Middle Tennessee.
Marshall blew several chances to extend a lead in the second and third quarters and Middle Tennessee’s Brent Stockstill made the Thundering Herd pay as the Blue Raiders won 34-24 in front of 25,979 spectators in Joan C. Edwards Stadium.
“It’s disappointing the way we came out in the second half,” Marshall head coach Doc Holliday said. “We just couldn’t get off the field in the second half with the Stockstill kid. He’s a really good player.”
With the loss, Marshall fell to 3-2 this season and 1-1 in Conference USA while Middle Tennessee takes sole possession of first place at 3-2 overall and 2-0 in C-USA.
Marshall was without injured starting quarterback Isaiah Green and running back Keion Davis in the contest. Backup quarterback Alex Thomson had his first action with the Herd.
After struggling to establish the run in the first four games, Marshall did so at will in the first half in forging a halftime lead.
However, as the Middle Tennessee defense adjusted, the Herd was unable to get its passing attack going.
Thomson never got into a rhythm until the game was in hand. Middle Tennessee scored 24 straight points to seize control and much of the Herd’s second-half offense came on a late scoring drive that ended with a touchdown pass from Thomson to Obi Obialo.
Thomson finished 17 of 34 for 173 passing yards with two touchdowns and an interception.
“Being able to play football again, that’s a special moment for me, but it didn’t go as planned,” Thomson said. “It starts with me offensively. We’ve got to be better.”
Turnovers plagued Marshall in its previous three games, and the trend continued Friday with the Herd coughing it up on three occasions. Friday marked the fourth straight game when the Herd turned the ball over at least three times.
King rushed for a career-high 165 yards, but also had a first-half fumble when Marshall was trying to extend its lead to two scores. The Herd also had a missed opportunity to go up by two scores on the first drive of the second half. That drive ended with a missed field goal attempt.
“It’s huge,” Holliday said. “You continue to turn the ball over, you’re going to get beat.”
From there, Middle Tennessee took momentum and never relinquished it behind the play of Stockstill.
The Blue Raiders took control in the third quarter, getting a 2-yard pass from Stockstill to Patrick Smith to knot the game before the dagger came on Middle Tennessee’s next drive.
Facing a fourth-down and inches, Stockstill flipped the ball to Tavares Thomas, who walked into the end zone on an 8-yard run to put the Blue Raiders ahead. Thomas later added an 18-yard receiving touchdown early in the fourth quarter that put the game away.
Stockstill finished 25 of 40 for 317 yards and two touchdowns.
“He made plays in the second half that we didn’t make,” Holliday said.
The loss spoiled Marshall’s best rushing attack of the season with the Herd gaining 209 yards on the ground to counter Middle Tennessee’s exotic blitz packages.
“We knew we were going to be able to run the ball because of the crazy defense they run,” King said. “They tend to leave the middle of the field open with the crazy blitzes they run, but we fell short.”
After a slow start for both offenses, the final two minutes of the first half produced penalty of offense from both sides as the Herd took a 17-10 lead into the locker room.
Marshall led 10-3 and was driving when King fumbled and Middle Tennessee’s Tyshun Render recovered at the Blue Raiders’ 33-yard line. Stockstill went to work quickly, completing a 39-yard pass to Jocquez Bruce and using a pass interference penalty on the Herd to set up his own 5-yard touchdown run.
Marshall could’ve elected to sit on the ball and go to the locker room at halftime, but King made up for his fumble with consecutive runs of 11 and 31 yards to put Marshall into the scoring zone. A key third-down run by Anthony Anderson set up an 11-yard touchdown pass from Thomson to Armani Levias. It was the first touchdown for both in a Marshall uniform.
The Blue Raiders were flagged for three personal fouls — one on the Herd’s opening scoring drive, which ended with a 33-yard field goal from Justin Rohrwasser and two on the Herd’s first touchdown drive, which gave the Herd 30 yards. One of the personal fouls on the touchdown drive came after a failed Marshall third-and-10 attempt.
Middle Tennessee jumped to a 3-0 lead with a 15-play drive that ended with a 34-yard field goal from Crews Holt. The drive looked promising, but a Ty Tyler sack on third down ended the threat.
Marshall was able to get to Stockstill consistently in the first half, registering five sacks. However, the Herd never touched him after halftime and he found a rhythm in the offense.
“Defensively, the first half, I thought we played well and contained him for the most part,” Holliday said. “He’s going to make some plays and I thought we limited that in the first half. In the second half, we didn’t. We got caught in man coverage a couple times.”
The Herd hits the road for its next Conference USA matchup, traveling to Norfolk, Virginia, for a Saturday game at Old Dominion.