Herd defense stuffs Roadrunners
HUNTINGTON — Marshall University’s defense made the UTSA Roadrunners’ offense appear as if it were executed by Wile E. Coyote.
The Thundering Herd (7-3 overall, 5-2 Conference USA) dominated an already suspect UTSA offense in college football Saturday afternoon in a 23-0 victory in front of 18,502 at Joan C. Edwards Stadium.
The Herd held UTSA to minus-26 yards rushing, setting a school record, and 137 total yards.
“I thought our defense was sensational,” MU head coach Doc Holliday said. “When you play defense like that and great special teams. ... Some kids are really starting to step up. In the end, we got after it pretty good. Anytime you can stop the run and make them throw the ball is good.”
Marshall jumped to a 20-0 halftime lead that could have been larger if not for two failed field goal attempts and a stout but worn down Roadrunners defense.
UTSA’s offense did its defense no favors, gaining merely 57 yards — minus-16 rushing — in a display of first-half ineptness than conjured memories of former Herd foes VMI and Kent State. Eight possessions resulted in six punts, a fumble and a fourth-down stop. Five of those possessions were of the three-and-out variety.
Special teams didn’t help the Roadrunners (3-8, 2-5) early, as a pair of 28-yard punts gave Marshall the ball in UTSA territory twice.
Little was anticipated from the Roadrunners’ offense, which entered the game averaging just 14.9 points and 243.3 yards per game, and UTSA met expectations. Early blunders that helped stymie the attack included:
• Marquez McNair fumbling away a kickoff return at the Roadrunners’ 37. One play later, Marshall scored for a 10-0 lead.
• Kick returner Sheldon Jones took the ensuing kickoff and appeared to have running room, but slipped and fell at his own 14. Three plays later on third-and-6, quarterback Jordan Weeks bobbled a snap, disrupting the timing of a pass play, and threw incomplete, forcing a punt.
• UTSA’s initial first down was erased because of a holding penalty, turning a 15-yard gain into a 10-yard loss. That possession ended with Yannis Routsas losing three yards on a fake punt to give Marshall the ball at the visitors’ 31.
• One of the Roadrunners’ better plays came at 12:53 of the second quarter when wide receiver Greg Campbell Jr. appeared to purposely drop a pass behind the line of scrimmage when he realized he would be tackled for a loss.
Marshall’s defense overwhelmed UTSA blockers, consistently reaching the backfield to disrupt runs and hurry passes.
The third quarter was no better for the Roadrunners, who went 3-and-out on their first series and were penalized twice inside their own 3-yard line before the first snap of their second possession. A false start gave UTSA three penalties on their first five plays of the second drive and a holding flag and an offensive pass interference call made it five flags to bring up a first-and-35 situation.
A sack led to second-and-41, to which UTSA responded with an illegal forward pass to make it third-and-46. The Roadrunners, confused lining up, then called a timeout with one second left in the quarter.
In the fourth quarter, from their own 7, UTSA wasted a prime opportunity to pick up significant yardage when after quarterback Bryce Rivers bobbled a low snap, he hit an open McNair in the hands with a pass to the 18. McNair dropped it.
The Roadrunners reached Marshall’s 47 on their final drive, only to see linebacker Tyler Brown intercept a Rivers pass at the 35, ending the game.