Marshall defense stops 49ers
HUNTINGTON — On Saturday, there was an oddity that hadn’t happened in nearly a full year to Marshall University’s football team.
The oddity? Marshall’s defense allowing a first-quarter touchdown to an opponent.
It had been 364 days since the Thundering Herd defense allowed the last one, which was against Western Kentucky on Nov. 11, 2017.
Yet, Charlotte (4-6, 3-3 Conference USA) snapped the Herd’s 11-game streak - the longest in the nation entering Saturday - with a 12-play, 75-yard drive that ended in a 1-yard score by Evan Shirreffs on a busted play.
It wasn’t just that Charlotte scored, it was how the 49ers scored. The 49ers took the ball and, after throwing an initial pass to open the drive, ripped off 11 straight runs to find the end zone.
Once the Marshall (6-3, 4-2) defense went to the sideline, there was a heart-to-heart talk from the coaching staff that got things back on track quickly.
Marshall responded with 10 first-quarter points, held a 13-10 halftime edge, and rolled to a 30-13 victory before 19,418 spectators in Joan C. Edwards Stadium.
“We came off to the sidelines and told everybody, ‘Tighten up. We’ve got to get this together. They’re not going to run all over us,’” Marshall defensive tackle Ryan Bee said. “We took the corrections and did what we needed to do to stop them.”
It was only the second time in 19 games the Herd allowed a touchdown in the first quarter, meaning it was unfamiliar territory for many of the guys on the field, even though the defense is a veteran group.
One of the keys for Marshall was the defense didn’t panic, which might not seem like a big deal, but considering the previous week’s unnerving loss at Southern Miss, it was huge for the ability to regroup.
“That’s football, bro,” Marshall linebacker Frankie Hernandez said. “Stuff like that happens. We weren’t tripping over it. We knew what was up. We had to tighten up and buckle down and go a little bit harder. That was it.”
After allowing 75 yards on the opening drive, Marshall’s defense allowed just 110 total yards for the rest of the game while getting stronger as the game wore on.
In the second half, Charlotte had just two first downs and 14 total yards on 21 plays as the Herd took the game over.
The key was getting the job done on early downs by limiting the rushing attack of the 49ers, which was led by Benny LeMay.
“LeMay is one of the best backs in our league,” Bee said. “The point of emphasis this week was to win on first and second down, get them behind the chains and get them to third down and make them pass it. I feel like we did that tonight.”
With Marshall winning the early downs, Charlotte was forced into those passing situations, and the Marshall defense teed off on Shirreffs, coming at him from all angles.
Charlotte was 0-for-6 on third-down attempts in the second half and the Herd notched six sacks -- two by Bee -- while logging 12 quarterback hurries as well.
“The defense played well,” Marshall head coach Doc Holliday said. “If you can play that kind of defense and, again, be really good on special teams and take care of the ball on offense, you’ve got a shot at winning every game.“Marshall is at home again Saturday for a 2:30 meeting with UTSA (3-7, 2-4).