The Thundering Herd of Marshall broke the Murfreesboro, Tennessee road jinx Friday night in a big way and Marshall routed the Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders 38-10 behind a big second quarter in front of an announced attendance of 13,412 at Floyd Stadium.
The Herd (6-1, 3-0) put forth a 24-point second quarter and the defense held the Blue Raiders (3-5, 1-3) in check the remainder of the game to secure Marshall’s fifth straight win and first win at MTSU since the Blue Raiders joined C-USA in 2013.
Marshall began the game strongly when an 8-play, 75-yard drive was capped off with a Tyler King touchdown run from 15 yards out to give the Herd an early 7-0 lead with 10:55 remaining in the first quarter.
MTSU answered on its first offensive possession when Canon Rooker connected on a career-long 50-yard field goal to cut the Marshall lead down to 7-3 with 7:25 to go in the first quarter. The remainder of the first quarter saw both teams trading punts, but the Herd’s defense came up huge in the early stages of the second quarter.
Marshall’s Artis Johnson intercepted Blue Raiders quarterback John Urzua and returned it 17 yards for a touchdown to extend the Herd’s lead to 14-3 with 13:24 remaining in the second quarter. But Marshall’s defense wasn’t finished creating turnovers quite yet.
On MTSU’s next offensive possession, the Herd’s Omari Cobb forced a fumble that was recovered by Chase Hancock and returned 18 yards to the Blue Raiders’ 18-yard line. And the Marshall offense took full advantage with a 9-yard touchdown run by Keion Davis to extend the Herd’s lead up to 21-3 with 11:48 remaining in the second quarter.
After both teams traded punts, the MTSU offense went on its most impressive drive of the game and the 8-play, 80-yard drive was capped off with an Urzua touchdown pass to Richie James from 9 yards out to cut the Herd’s lead down to 21-10 with 7:03 to go in the second quarter.
But Marshall’s offense responded on its ensuing drive when Davis punched it in the end zone from 1 yard out to extend the lead back up to 28-10 with 3:19 remaining in the second quarter. After a defensive stand, the Herd’s offense got the ball back with time to add points to close out the first half.
And Marshall did just that with a Kaare Vedvik 25-yard field goal with 17 seconds to go until halftime to set the halftime score at 31-10 in favor of the Herd. The Blue Raiders began the third quarter with the ball and went on an impressive drive, but Marshall had other ideas.
After forcing MTSU into a 43-yard field goal attempt, the kick was missed wide left and the Herd’s offense took over at its own 26-yard line. The remainder of the third quarter was quieter for both offenses until the fourth quarter began with Marshall on offense.
And after King found the end zone from 1 yard out, the Herd’s lead was extended to 38-10 with 12:47 remaining in the fourth quarter. The Marshall defense continued to hold things in check throughout the remainder of the game to preserve an impressive 38-10 road win for the Herd.
Marshall quarterback Chase Litton finished 16 for 24 for 168 yards, but his streak of 27 straight games with at least one touchdown pass was snapped. King led a stellar ground attack with 23 carries for 129 yards and two touchdowns to pace a group that rushed for 198 yards on the night.
Marcell Williams finished with four receptions for 46 yards and Willie Johnson had three receptions for 55 yards to both lead Marshall in receiving. Hancock and Malik Gant led the Herd defensively with five total tackles each with Hancock adding a fumble recovery and one pass defended and Gant adding two passes defended of his own.
Urzua finished 14 for 30 for 220 yards and one touchdown with one interception for MTSU and Brad Anderson led the Blue Raiders’ rushing attack with 13 carries for 51 yards, but MTSU ran for a net of just 53 yards on 31 carries as a team on the night.
Ty Lee led all Blue Raiders receivers with four receptions for 95 yards and D.J. Sanders led MTSU defensively with seven total tackles and one tackle-for-loss.
With the win, the Herd clinches bowl eligibility on the season after going just 3-9 in 2016 and remains atop the C-USA East Division standings with a key home game upcoming on Oct. 28.
Marshall returns home to battle the Florida International Panthers Oct. 28 at Joan C. Edwards Stadium in Huntington, West Virginia. The Blue Raiders return to action Nov. 4 at home against UTEP after a bye week.