The Thundering Herd of Marshall used a dominating first half performance Saturday night to roll past the Cincinnati Bearcats 38-21 in front of 35,736 fans at Nippert Stadium in Cincinnati, Ohio.
The Herd (3-1) opened up a commanding 24-0 lead at halftime and the Bearcats (2-3) were never able to get closer than a 17-point second half deficit and Marshall walked away with its first road win since October 31, 2015.
The game started as strange as possible when both teams traded fumbles within the first four offensive plays of the game and after the dust cleared, the Herd had the ball back.
And it didn’t waste another opportunity when a 10-play, 66-yard drive was capped off when Marshall quarterback Chase Litton connected with Ryan Yurachek for a 14-yard touchdown to put the Herd in front 7-0 with 8:39 remaining in the first quarter.
After a few punts, Marshall put more points on the board when a seven-plus minute drive was capped off with a Kaare Vedvik 26-yard field goal to extend the Herd’s lead to 10-0 with 12:55 remaining in the second quarter.
After two more Cincinnati punts and a Marshall missed field goal, the Herd’s offense got rolling again and on fourth-and-2 from the Bearcats’ 27-yard line, Litton connected with Willie Johnson for a 27-yard touchdown to extend the lead to 17-0 with 1:38 to go in the second quarter.
Disaster struck on the ensuing kickoff for Cincinnati when Thomas Geddis fumbled and Marshall’s Nazeeh Johnson recovered to set up the Herd’s offense at the Bearcats’ 15-yard line.
And just one play later, Litton connected with Yurachek for a 15-yard touchdown to extend Marshall’s lead up to 24-0 with 1:27 remaining in the second quarter. This marked Yurachek’s first career two receiving touchdown game in his storied Marshall career.
Cincinnati put together its most impressive drive of the game to end the first half, but the Herd’s defense held strong inside its own 10-yard line to set up a field goal attempt. And Josh Pasley’s 26-yard field goal attempt missed, giving Marshall’s offense the ball where it quickly ran out the remaining seconds of the first half to head into halftime up 24-0.
The Bearcats opened up the third quarter strongly when a 15-play, 75-yard drive was capped off when Gerrid Doaks punched it in the end zone from 2 yards out to cut the Herd’s lead down to 24-7 with 9:05 remaining in the third quarter.
After a few changes of possession, Marshall’s special teams made its mark on the game when during a Vedvik punt, the ball hit a Cincinnati player and the Herd’s D’Andre Wilson recovered to set Marshall’s offense up at the Bearcats’ 31-yard line.
And on the next play, Litton to Yurachek got the hat trick with a 31-yard touchdown to extend the Marshall lead up to 31-7 with 1:06 remaining in the third quarter.
Cincinnati responded with a Michael Warren II touchdown run from 27 yards out to cut the Herd’s lead down to 31-14 with 14:15 remaining in the fourth quarter. But that was as close as the Bearcats would get in the fourth quarter.
Marshall’s offense had the answer when Keion Davis punched it in the end zone from 1 yard out to extend the Herd’s lead to 38-14 with 9:14 to go in the game. The Bearcats added one final touchdown to set the final score at 38-21 in favor of Marshall.
Litton finished 21 for 34 for 233 yards and four touchdowns on the night for the Herd while Davis led the ground attack with 20 carries for 93 yards and one touchdown.
Yurachek led all Marshall receivers from the tight end position with six receptions for 77 yards and three touchdowns while Chris Jackson and Chase Hancock led the Herd on defense with seven tackles and three solo tackles and seven tackles, two solo tackles, 0.5 tackles-for-loss, two passes defended and one quarterback hurry respectively.
Hayden Moore finished 22 for 45 for 211 yards and one touchdown for Cincinnati while Doaks finished with 10 carries for 55 yards and one touchdown to lead the Bearcats on the ground.
Devin Gray led Cincinnati’s receivers with three receptions for 68 yards and Perry Young led the Bearcats on defense with 13 total tackles, six solo tackles, and one tackle-for-loss.
With the win, Marshall improves to 3-1 on the season for the first time since 2015 and has already matched its win total from 2016 through the first four games as well as clinching its first win over Cincinnati since defeating the Bearcats in the 2000 Motor City Bowl.
The Herd heads back out on the road to open up C-USA play Oct. 7 at Charlotte. Cincinnati returns to action Oct. 7 at home against UCF.