Senior night in Huntington, West Virginia Saturday ended in heartbreak for the hometown Marshall Thundering Herd and the Southern Miss Golden Eagles edged Marshall 28-27 in front of a season-low 18,361 fans at Joan C. Edwards Stadium in both teams’ season finale.
Marshall (7-5, 4-4) scored what appeared to be the game-tying touchdown with under two minutes remaining, but a mishap on the extra point proved to be the difference maker and Southern Miss (8-4, 6-2) escaped with a narrow one-point win to send the Herd into postseason play having lost four of its last five games.
The Herd’s defense forced a quick stop on the Golden Eagles’ opening possession of the game, but Marshall’s offense gave it right back to Southern Miss when Hyleck Foster fumbled and Curtis Mikell recovered to give the Golden Eagles’ offense the ball back.
Southern Miss drove the ball into the red zone, but a Parker Shaunfield missed field goal from 36 yards out kept the score still scoreless with 7:44 remaining in the first quarter.
After a Marshall punt, Southern Miss finally got on the scoreboard as the second quarter began when Ito Smith found the end zone from 3 yards out to give the Golden Eagles a 7-0 lead with 14:09 remaining in the second quarter.
After a punt from each team, the Herd’s offense finally got going when a 10-play, 87-yard drive was capped off with a Chase Litton touchdown pass to Willie Johnson from 26 yards out to tie the game at 7 with 5:15 to go in the second quarter.
The Golden Eagles had an answer when on their next offensive possession, Kwadra Griggs connected with Korey Robertson for a 16-yard touchdown to give Southern Miss the lead back at 14-7 with 3:42 remaining in the second quarter.
But just as the Golden Eagles did following the Marshall touchdown, the Herd’s offense did the same following that Southern Miss touchdown when Litton connected with Ryan Yurachek for a 3-yard touchdown to tie the game at 14 with 2:13 to go until halftime.
That score would hold into halftime and as the third quarter got going, a couple turnovers would affect the quarter. After a punt by each team, Litton was intercepted by Tarvarius Moore to set the Golden Eagles up at their own 13-yard line.
But Southern Miss gave it right back to the Herd when Smith fumbled and Marshall’s Brandon Drayton recovered to give the Herd’s offense the ball at the Southern Miss 26-yard line.
And Marshall took advantage when Litton connected with Yurachek again, this time from 11 yards out, to give the Herd its first lead of the game at 21-14 with 11:31 remaining in the third quarter.
But after a couple more punts, the Southern Miss offense went on a 14-play, 93-yard drive that was capped off when Griggs connected with Allenzae Staggers for a 3-yard touchdown to tie the game at 21 with 1:54 remaining in the third quarter.
As the fourth quarter began, Marshall’s offense set up a potential go-ahead 51-yard field goal attempt by Kaare Vedvik, but the kick was blocked by the Golden Eagles to thwart the scoring opportunity for the Herd.
Another turnover would hurt Marshall on its next offensive possession when Tyler King fumbled and Southern Miss’s Allen Fails recovered to set the Golden Eagles’ offense up at its own 46-yard line.
And the Golden Eagles took advantage when Griggs connected with Staggers for a 9-yard touchdown to give Southern Miss a 28-21 lead with 9:44 to go in the fourth quarter.
After two more punts by each team, Marshall’s offense got the ball back with just over two minutes remaining with a chance to tie the game. And after driving the ball inside the Southern Miss 10-yard line, the Herd got the score when Litton connected with Yurachek for the third time on the night for a touchdown from 9 yards out with 1:15 to go in the game.
But on the extra point, a low snap coupled with a tough hold led to Marshall being unable to connect on the extra point, keeping the score 28-27 in favor of Southern Miss. And on the ensuing onside kick attempt, the Golden Eagles recovered and ran out the final minute to escape with a 28-27 win over Marshall.
Griggs finished 16 for 35 for 170 yards and three touchdowns for Southern Miss while Smith had a big game on the ground with 29 carries for 150 yards and one touchdown.
Robertson led all Golden Eagles receivers with seven receptions for 118 yards and one touchdown while Staggers added two receiving touchdowns of his own. Kelsey Douglas led Southern Miss defensively with nine total tackles and one pass defended.
Litton finished 26 for 44 for 308 yards and four touchdowns with one interception for Marshall while King led the Herd on the ground with nine carries for 48 yards, but the Herd only ran for a net of 74 yards on 26 attempts.
Johnson led Marshall in receiving with six receptions for 86 yards and one touchdown while Yurachek added seven receptions for 56 yards and three touchdowns in his last game at Edwards Stadium.
Chase Hancock had a huge game defensively for the Herd with 18 total tackles, one tackle-for-loss, one pass defended, and two quarterback hurries while Drayton finished with 12 total tackles of his own.
With the loss, Marshall heads into postseason play having lost four of its last five games on the season after a 6-1 start and with the win, Southern Miss takes the 7-6 all-time series lead over the Herd and notched its first win at Marshall since 2009.
Marshall and Southern Miss now await their bowl destinations in the coming weeks with both guaranteed a bowl game among the six guaranteed bowl tie-ins for C-USA.