HOUSTON, Texas — No late-game heroics needed this week.
The Marshall football team scored 17 unanswered points through the middle quarters and ultimately captured the program’s fourth straight win on Saturday with a 20-7 decision over host Rice in a Conference USA matchup at Rice Stadium.
The Thundering Herd (6-3, 4-1 CUSA East) built a 3-0 advantage after one quarter of play, but the Owls (0-9, 0-5 CUSA West) countered with their only points less than five minutes into the second frame — giving the hosts their only lead at 7-3.
The guests needed less than a minute to recapture the lead for good as the Green and White produced back-to-back touchdowns before halftime, allowing MU to secure a 17-7 edge entering the break.
Marshall tacked on a late third quarter field goal to increase its cushion out to 13 points, then both teams simply traded possessions the rest of the way — allowing the Herd to wrap up the 20-7 triumph.
Neither team committed a turnover in the contest, which remained scoreless through most of the opening period.
Marshall, however, drew first blood as Justin Rohrwasser capped a 9-play, 67-yard drive with a 22-yard field goal, giving the guests a 3-0 edge with 1:08 left in the first quarter.
RU countered with an 11-play, 66-yard drive that resulted in a 7-3 advantage as Austin Trammell hauled in a 2-yard pass from JoVone Johnson with 10:20 left in the first half.
Marshall retaliated with a quick strike as the guests needed only two plays to cover 64 yards while retaking the lead.
Xavier Gaines hauled in a 63-yard pass from Isaiah Green on the first play of the drive, then Brenden Knox plunged in from a yard out with 9:33 remaining for a 10-7 edge.
Rice was forced to punt on its ensuing drive, then the Herd strung together a 13-play, 95-yard drive that ended with a 19-yard touchdown pass from Green to Talik Keaton — making it a 17-3 contest with 28 seconds left in the first half.
Rohrwasser — who also had a field goal attempt blocked on the opening drive of the game — converted a 49-yard field goal with 2:47 remaining in the third to wrap up the scoring.
Marshall claimed an 18-16 edge in first downs and also outgained the hosts by a 391-231 overall margin in total yards of offense. The Owls did produce six more rushing yards (128-122) in the setback.
Knox accounted for 130 rushing yards on 27 carries, while Sheldon Evans added 17 yards on four attempts.
Green completed 17-of-22 passes for 269 yards, including one touchdown. Levias led the guests with seven catches for 96 yards and Gaines added 74 yards on two grabs.
Nazeeh Johnson, Tavante Beckett and Omari Cobb paced the Herd defense with nine tackles apiece. Koby Cumberlander, Jamare Edwards and Darius Hodge recorded a sack apiece for the victors.
Juma Otoviano paced Rice with 66 rushing yards on 14 carries and Johnson added 65 yards on 13 attempts. Johnson completed 10-of-17 passes for 97 yards and a score. Trammell led the wideouts with four catches for 35 yards.
Antonio Montero led the Owls with a game-high 11 tackles and Adrian Bickham blocked Rohrwasser’s 28-yard first quarter field goal try. RU also recorded three sacks in the setbacks.
The Thundering Herd now have a bye week before returning to Conference USA action on Friday, Nov. 15 when they host Louisiana Tech at 7 p.m.
Bryan Walters can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2101.