HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — These cats proved to be a bit of a bear.
Visiting Cincinnati churned out 525 yards of total offense and held Marshall scoreless through three quarters en route to a 52-14 decision Saturday evening during a non-conference football game at Joan C. Edwards Stadium.
The Bearcats (3-1) were simply dominant as the Red and Black produced leads of 14-0 and 28-0 after the first two periods, then added another 17 points out of the break for a resounding 45-0 cushion headed into the finale.
The Thundering Herd (2-2) — who managed only seven first downs and 128 yards of total offense through three frames — finally found some offensive rhythm in the fourth as the hosts produced back-to-back scores in a 2-minute window while cutting the deficit down to 45-14 with 10:40 remaining in regulation.
UC, however, shut things down the rest of the way and added a 1-yard Mike Kopaygarodsky touchdown run with 1:20 left to wrap up the 38-point triumph.
It was the largest loss for MU — by point differential — at home since dropping a 60-6 decision to Western Kentucky back on Nov. 26, 2016. It was also the first time since a 59-28 setback to Louisville on Sept. 24, 2016, that a non-conference opponent won by more than 30 points at Edwards Stadium.
“Obviously that’s a game we didn’t play very well in any of the three phases. Cincinnati is an excellent football team. Give them credit,” Marshall coach Doc Holliday said afterward. “They came in and took it to us. From the beginning of the game, we could not get things going and unfortunately they played a lot better than we did. We got to play better and get ready for our conference opener next week.”
Cincinnati — which is now 9-4 all-time against the Herd — got a stellar effort from quarterback Desmond Ridder, who finished the day 18-of-22 passing for 221 yards and threw four touchdowns in a little over two quarters of work.
Ridder found Rashad Medaris on a 13-yard scoring pass on the opening drive of the game, allowing UC to take a permanent lead of 7-0 with 12:40 left in the opening stanza. Ridder also found Alec Pierce with a 17-yard scoring pass at the 2:53 mark for a 14-0 edge through one quarter of play.
Ridder hooked up with Josiah Deguara for a 13-yard TD pass at the 8:45 mark of the second that extended the lead out to 21-0.
A rare bright spot eventually turned into a disaster for Marshall late in the half as linebacker Tavante Beckett hit Ridder in the process of a pass attempt deep in MU territory.
What could have been a 14-yard loss on a third-and-5 at the seven, however, ended up being ruled a fumble, and Deguara ultimately picked the ball up at the Marshall two. Deguara followed by strolling into the end zone untouched, and a replay review confirmed the play as a fumble.
Deguara’s 2-yard touchdown run gave the Bearcats a 28-0 advantage with 1:10 left in the half … and the score remained that way headed into the break.
Cincinnati ran 24 of the first 27 plays from scrimmage and had a 14-point lead to show for those efforts. The Red and Black outgained MU by a 300-116 margin in total yards before halftime and held a 19-7 edge in first downs.
UC forced a quick 3-and-out at the start of the second half, then Ridder completed his day with a 4-yard touchdown pass to Bruno Labelle at the 8:46 mark of the third for a 35-point cushion.
Sam Crosa tacked on a 32-yard field goal with 1:39 remaining in the period, then Tavion Thomas added a 1-yard touchdown run with three seconds left in the third for a commanding 45-0 advantage.
The Green and White finally put together a scoring drive in the fourth as the hosts covered 75 yards in eight plays, with Sheldon Evans barreling his way into the end zone with a 13-yard run around the right side for a 45-7 contest with 12:35 remaining.
Domenick Murphy recovered a fumble on Cincinnati’s ensuing drive at the UC 40, and the hosts needed only one play to cover the distance as Willie Johnson rumbled 40 yards on a reverse — making it a 45-14 contest with 10:40 left in regulation.
Half of Marshall’s total offensive yardage output came in the fourth quarter and the hosts did force the only turnover of the game, which also resulted in seven points because of that takeaway.
The Bearcats claimed a 29-14 advantage in first downs while churning out 230 rushing yards and 295 passing yards. MU, conversely, finished the night with 125 rushing yards and 131 passing yards.
The hosts were penalized seven times for 65 yards, while Cincinnati was flagged nine times for 75 yards. Marshall also had eight of the 11 punts in the game.
Brenden Knox led the MU ground attack with 49 yards on 16 carries, with Evans adding 42 yards on seven attempts.
Isaiah Green completed 11-of-29 passes for 131 yards, with Knox leading the receivers with 50 yards on four catches. Corey Gammage, Armani Lewis and Xavier Gaines also had two catches apiece for 28, 20 and 10 yards respectively.
Nazeeh Johnson led the MU defense with 13 tackles, followed by Omari Cobb with 11 tackles and Brandon Drayton with 10 stops. Beckett had a sack in the setback, while Cobb and Darius Hodge shared a sack in the game as well.
Thomas paced the Cincinnati rushing attack with 70 yards on 11 carries, while Ridder rushed for 48 yards on nine attempts while also leading the aerial assault. A dozen different receivers hauled in at least one catch, with Pierce leading the way with six grabs for 108 yards.
Jarell White led the UC defense with six tackles. Ethan Tucky and Michael Pitts also recorded a sack apiece for the victors.
Marshall starts Conference USA play on Saturday as it travels to Murfreesboro (TN) for a matchup with Middle Tennessee State (1-3). Kickoff at Johnny ‘Red’ Floyd Stadium is slated for 3:30 p.m.
Notes: A total of 32,192 fans were in attendance on Saturday, which was the 13th largest crowd ever at Edwards Stadium since the facility opened in 1991. … Marshall hasn’t defeated Cincinnati at home since a 28-0 decision in 1937. … After being shutout through three quarters, MU avoided being held scoreless for the first time since a 42-0 loss at Toledo back on Oct. 14, 2000. The Herd has never been held scoreless in a game at Edwards Stadium and was last shut out at home during a 30-0 setback to Western Carolina back on Nov. 3, 1984.
Bryan Walters can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2101.