Herd outruns Bulls, 38-20
TAMPA, Fla. — On Thursday night, Marshall University made sure that the end of its 2018 football season was successful.
The Thundering Herd jumped out to an early lead and used a balanced offense to salt the game away with a long fourth-quarter drive to earn a 38-20 win over the University South Florida in the Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl at Raymond James Stadium.
“It’s not about playing in this, it’s about winning the daggone thing,” Marshall head coach Holliday said. “Our guys understand what it takes. They do a great job of preparing and the results are what they are.”
Marshall finished with a 9-4 record with its seventh consecutive bowl win. Holliday moved to 6-0 all-time in bowl games with the Herd.
Keion Davis ended his Marshall career strong with 14 carries for 93 yards and two touchdowns.
Davis’ 16-yard scoring run with 6:24 left in the fourth quarter capped an 11-play, 64-yard drive that took 5:47 off the clock and helped Marshall put away the win. He later added a 52-yard run in the fourth quarter and was named as the game’s Most Valuable Player.
Marshall rushed for 282 yards while Isaiah Green was 17 of 25 for 221 passing yards. Wide receiver Tyre Brady caught five passes for 88 yards to go over 1,000 yards for the season.
“It puts the cherry on top of this,” Brady said. “You should see how excited my teammates
were. They were all telling me I was only eight yards away (from 1,000). They were all so excited for me. It just goes to show you the bond we built being here.”
The Thundering Herd finished with 503 yards of offense and outgained USF 142 yards to 11 in the fourth quarter.
Marshall took a 28-10 lead to halftime thanks to a balanced offensive effort that got the Herd off to a good start.
After a 21-point first quarter, the Herd pushed its lead to three scores following a pair of big special-teams plays by Marcel Williams, who hustled to down a punt at the USF 1 before notching a 28-yard punt return following the subsequent three-and-out forced by the Marshall defense. Williams’ return put the Herd inside the USF 20 and helped set up a 6-yard touchdown run by Davis that gave Marshall a 28-7 lead.
The Bulls moved back down the field just before the end of the half, but a strong stand inside the 5-yard line forced USF to settled for a 21-yard field goal by Coby Weiss, which kept the lead at three scores at the break.
In its previous history in Tampa/St. Petersburg-based bowls, Marshall had earned a pair of wins in defensive affairs. However, the Herd eclipsed its top point mark from either of its previous two wins in the first quarter.
After both teams felt each other out early, Marshall used a pair of big plays — one offensive, one defensive — and scored a pair of touchdowns in just 37 seconds.
Green connected with Xavier Gaines for 27 yards following a throwback across the field from Williams. Green followed by notching his first career rushing touchdown after scrambling 10 yards off the left side.
It didn’t take long for the offense to return to the end zone as Darius Hodge returned a bad snap from USF 29 yards on the second play of the series to set up a 1-yard plunge from Anthony Anderson that gave the Herd a 14-0 lead with 4:43 left in the first quarter.
Hodge’s play came on the first snaps by USF quarterback Blake Barnett, who did not start, but entered on the Bulls’ third offensive series. Barnett took over for Chris Oladokun, who was inefficient in the first half with just six completions of 15 attempted passes for 105 yards and he was sacked twice.
The lone touchdown for the Bulls in the first half came off a trick play when wide receiver Tyre McCants lined up in the wildcat formation and faked a run before throwing a 38-yard scoring strike to Randall St. Felix, who got behind the Herd defense.
Marshall quickly struck back, however, as Green connected with Brady on a big 42-yard reception, which helped set up an 8-yard touchdown run by Brenden Knox.
Knox started the strong offensive game for the Herd, ripping off a 42-yard run on the team’s first offensive play to set the tone. However, he left the game late in the second quarter and did not return.
Barnett was 11 of 23 for 212 passing yards for South Florida, which dropped six straight games to end the season 7-6.
St. Felix had six catches for 165 yards and two scores.
Jordan Cronkrite came into the game with 1,095 yards on the season for USF, but the Herd defense limited him to just 26 yards on 11 carries. Marshall allowed just 92 rushing yards.