MURFREESBORO, Tenn. — You can’t expect to win if you can’t hang onto the football.
The Marshall University football team fell on the road in its Conference USA opener 34-28 to the Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders Saturday evening.
The Thundering Herd (2-3, 0-1 CUSA East) recorded four fumbles and two interceptions in Saturday’s game, giving the Blue Raiders (2-3, 1-2) ample opportunity to put points on the board.
The opening quarter only saw one score, with the Blue and White reaching the endzone on a 3-yard rush six minutes in.
The home team scored once more less than three minutes into the second quarter, going up 14-0.
The Herd got on the board a couple of minutes later when running back Rasheen Ali rushed the ball for 12 yards.
However, the Blue Raiders scored just under two minutes later to put the Green and White back into a 14-point hole.
After the hosts scored once more to go up 28-7, the Thundering Herd marched down the field, with Ali capping the drive off with a 1-yard run with 55 seconds to go in the first half.
The turnover woes for Marshall caught up in a big way with two minutes to go in the third quarter, when the Blue Raiders recovered a fumble and took the ball 90 yards for a scoop-and-score.
After two games where the Herd found their fourth quarter lead slip away, it was their turn to see if they could make a late comeback.
Ali scored the hat trick with nine minutes to go, and quarterback Grant Wells found wide receiver Shadeed Ahmed on a 17-yard pass to get down by only a touchdown with 72 seconds to go in the game.
However, the onside kick attempt by the Herd was ruled to have not gone beyond 10 yards, leaving the Blue Raiders to run out the clock.
With Marshall losing all of three of its games by less than one score, Marshall head coach Charles Huff said his team is on the cusp of being something truly great.
“We’re close. That’s what we are,” he said. “We are a good football team that has to understand that execution and consistency is the key. When you’re playing these type of games, the margin of error is very small. I believe we are in these games because we are a good team. I think we’re close. It’s a process; it’s not a switch. We have to continue to work through the things that are costing us games.”
Wells went 31-47-2 in the air for a total of 321 yards, while Ali led the Herd on the ground with 113 yards on 19 carries.
Corey Gammage led the Herd in receiving, netting 81 yards on seven receptions.
The Thundering Herd will be back in action at 2 p.m. Saturday when they host the Old Dominion Monarchs for homecoming.
Editor’s Note: This story will appear in the Wednesday sports editions of the Gallipolis Daily Tribune, Point Pleasant Register and The Daily Sentinel.
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Colton Jeffries can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2100.