HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — A pretty good day … all the way around.
The Marshall football team recorded eight sacks, produced 444 yards of total offense and snapped a 2-game losing skid on Saturday afternoon with a 31-17 victory over visiting Old Dominion in a Conference USA East Division matchup at Joan C. Edwards Stadium.
The Thundering Herd (3-3, 1-1 CUSA East) led wire-to-wire as the hosts built a 14-0 edge early in the second canto before eventually taking a 17-10 cushion into the intermission.
The Monarchs (1-5, 0-2) were never closer as they traded third quarter scores with the Green and White for a 24-17 contest entering the finale.
MU ultimately sealed the deal on the outcome with a Brenden Knox 6-yard run with 3:55 left in regulation, giving the Herd its third and final 14-point lead of the game.
Neither team committed a turnover, so applying pressure became a key factor in the final outcome. Marshall ended the day with eight sacks that resulted in a loss of 42 yards, while ODU had only two sacks for a loss of 18 yards.
The Herd churned out a sizable 236-83 advantage in rushing yards, including a final total that was more than the Monarchs had allowed on the ground all year prior to Saturday. The hosts also had a different ball carrier score on each of its three rushing touchdowns.
In following up a heartbreaking 4-turnover loss at Middle Tennessee last week, MU head coach Doc Holliday was very pleased with how his troops managed to get things turned around on Military Appreciation Day.
“It was important that we got that win today. I was proud of our kids and the way they went out and executed. We felt like we had to start fast and I thought we did. That’s a defense that nobody ran on all year long, including Virginia and Virginia Tech. Today we had a couple hundred yards rushing,” Holliday said. “The thing is I preached all week, number one we got to score in the red zone and number two we got to take care of the football. We did both of those today.
“I’m proud of our players in the way they bounced back and the way they played. The defense was tremendous. At the end of the day we took care of the ball and the scored in the red zone. If we do that, we have a chance to win … and that is what happened.”
The first three possessions of regulation resulted in punts, but Marshall made the most of a very bad situation early on.
Starting at their own 6, the Herd marched 94 yards in a dozen plays to take what ended up being a permanent lead. Devin Miller hauled in a 1-yard pass from Isaiah Green at the 3:29 mark of the first for a 7-0 advantage.
Three more consecutive drives resulted in punts, giving MU the ball back early in the second frame at its own 23. The hosts covered 77 yards in nine plays, with Green capping the drive with a 17-yard touchdown run at the 8:40 mark for a 14-point cushion.
Old Dominion, however, countered by stringing together a 7-play, 75-yard drive that ended with a 44-yard pass from Messiah deWeaver to Aaron Moore. The touchdown allowed the guests to whittle the lead in half at 14-7 with 6:17 remaining until halftime.
Both teams traded punts, then Marshall settled for a successful 45-yard field goal by Justin Rohrwasser with 11 seconds left for a 17-7 edge.
Blake Watson returned the ensuing kickoff 75 yards down to the MU 22 with just one second left. Nick Rice drilled a 39-yard field goal as time expired, making it a 17-10 contest at the break.
Both teams traded punts at the start of the second half, but the Herd came up big on its second possession as the hosts covered 79 yards in just six plays. Willie Johnson capped things with a 27-yard scamper at the 8:21 mark of the third, extending the lead out to 24-10.
The Blue and White retaliated on their next possession with a 3-play, 24-yard drive that followed a 64-yard return by Wilson. Kesean Strong rumbled 24 yards to the house to close out the drive, cutting the deficit back to 24-17 with 7:01 left in the third period.
Both teams combined for four punts on the next four possessions, which ended up giving Marshall the ball at its own 23 with 9:43 left in regulation.
The hosts put together a 10-play, 77-yard drive that ended with Knox’s 6-yard run with 3:55 remaining, wrapping up the final 31-17 outcome.
The Thundering Herd claimed a sizable 27-11 edge in first downs and went 3-of-4 in red zone opportunities, with the one non-scoring drive coming from a kneel down at the end of regulation. Despite three scoring drives, ODU did not have a single red zone opportunity.
Both kickers were perfect on field goal and point-after tries. The Monarchs also had eight of the 14 punts in the contest.
Knox led the hosts with 104 rushing yards on 24 attempts, followed by Green with 59 yards on 11 carriers and Sheldon Evans added 50 yards on eight totes.
Green completed 19-of-31 passes for 175 yards, including one score. Broc Thompson led the MU wideouts with six catches for 91 yards. Armani Levias hauled in five passes for 35 yards. Xavier Gaines also caught three balls for 48 yards and completed his only pass attempt for 33 yards.
Tavante Beckett led the Herd with 14 tackles, followed by Kereon Merrell, Darius Hodge and Brandon Drayton with seven stops apiece. Hodge also recorded 4.5 sacks for the victors.
Strong led the ODU rushing attack with 35 yards on three carries, while deWeaver completed 8-of-14 passes for 100 yards — including one score. Darius Savedge led the receivers with two catches for 27 yards.
Lawrence Garner led the Monarchs with 12 tackles and a sack. Jordan Young was next with 11 stops, while Keion White recorded the other sack to go along with six tackles.
Marshall returns to action Friday night when it travels to Boca Raton for a CUSA East matchup with Florida Atlantic. Kickoff is scheduled for 6:30 p.m.
Bryan Walters can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2101.