Loss overshadows Thomson’s return
HUNTINGTON — Marshall University quarterback Alex Thomson walked into the postgame news conference quietly Friday night.
There was no smile.
There was no pep in his step.
There were just thoughts of Middle Tennessee’s 34-24 victory when the Thundering Herd offense couldn’t get on track in the second half.
For Thomson, it was a bittersweet feeling.
Sure, he was happy to be back on the field — a place he hadn’t been for nearly 13 months after a shoulder injury sidelined him in the second game of the 2017 season at Wagner College.
But there wasn’t much joy.
“Being able to play football again, that’s a special moment for me, but it didn’t go as planned,” Thomson said.
It was a tough FBS debut for Thomson, who finished the game with 17 pass completions in 34 attempts for 173 yards and two touchdowns. However, Thomson did also have two turnovers — one interception and one fumble.
In his first game action in 13 months, Thomson struggled to find a rhythm early as the Herd used the rushing attack to forge much of the offense, which was the game plan coming in against Middle Tennessee.
Once adjustments were made, though, the passing attack wasn’t there until Middle Tennessee had rattled off 24 straight points to turn a seven-point deficit into a three-score advantage.
Thomson’s first career touchdown pass at Marshall was a memorable 11-yard throw to tight end Armani Levias that gave the Herd a 17-10 halftime lead.
Middle Tennessee adjusted at halftime and brought even more defensive players into the box, eliminating the ability of the Herd to block for the run without a free defender coming clean on the play. The move was made to force Marshall to beat the Blue Raiders through the air, which the Herd was unable to do.
Marshall completed just one pass in the third quarter for three yards and Thomson was sacked four times after halftime.
“At the end of the day, he just hasn’t played in a long time,” Marshall head coach Doc Holliday said. “He had a little rust out there on him, but I felt like he hung in there and did some good things.”
Thomson did find some rhythm late in the game with the Herd playing catch-up, connecting on short slants and stop routes to receivers before hitting Obi Obialo for a 10-yard score to set the final margin.
That rhythm in the final quarter might be crucial moving forward with the status of starting quarterback Isaiah Green unknown.
Green had a brace on his left knee Friday evening, which could mean Thomson is the starter for the foreseeable future.
The future is where Thomson’s focus lies after Friday’s tough first outing.
“We have to regroup, put this one behind us and move forward,” he said.
STOCKSTILL HITS 10,000: Middle Tennessee quarterback Brent Stockstill achieved an impressive milestone Friday.
Stockstill eclipsed 10,000 passing yards for his career when he hit tight end Gatlin Casey for a 25-yard gain on Middle Tennessee’s second drive of the evening.
Coming into the contest, Stockstill needed just 67 yards to hit the mark. He ended the evening with 317 yards passing.
INJURY BUG LIMITS HERD: In addition to Green being injured, Marshall was without several other starting players.
Running back Keion Davis missed the contest and Tyler King started in his place. King rushed for a career-high 165 yards.
Right guard Alex Mollette also missed the contest, giving Cain Madden the first start of his career.
Cornerback Jaylon McClain-Sapp missed his second consecutive week of action.
All were labeled as undisclosed injuries when announced prior to kickoff.
MOFFATT MAKES IMPACT: Middle Tennessee safety Jovante Moffatt had quite the impact in Friday’s win. Moffatt finished with 17 tackles and a forced fumble to lead Middle Tennessee’s defense that limited the Herd to seven points in the second half.
TALE OF TWO HALVES: For the second consecutive week, Middle Tennessee’s defense proved strong after halftime.
Last week, the Blue Raiders limited Florida Atlantic to three points in the second half of a 25-24 upset of the Owls.
On Friday, Marshall was able to get just one touchdown late in the game with the outcome already decided.