MCGILL: Finley, NC State outlast Marshall, 37-20

Updated 1 year ago Special to HNN Provided by Herd Zone

By Chuck McGill

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. – At the outset of the 2018 season, the Marshall football program was supposed to receive a pair of opportunities against teams from Power 5 conferences. The Thundering Herd only had once chance, and on Saturday night in front of a "Stripe the Stadium" crowd, the home team came up short.

Marshall trailed for the final 54 minutes and 45 seconds, losing to visiting North Carolina State, 37-20, in front of 32,349 fans. The attendance is the 12th-largest in Joan C. Edwards Stadium history, and the loss is the Herd's first this season.

"Obviously, we didn't play well enough to win that football game," Marshall coach Doc Holliday said. "That's an excellent football team we played. We made too many mistakes; had a couple of turnovers there we don't normally have. They did a good job of converting third downs; we didn't convert third downs very well.

"We've got to get back and get better as a team."

The crowd, with alternating sections of green and white, had moments to cheer as Huntington received a rare visit from an ACC program. Redshirt freshman quarterback Isaiah Green, making his third career start, connected with senior receiver Marcel Williamsfor an 82-yard touchdown in the second quarter. After trailing 23-7 at the half, Marshall (2-1) rallied in the third quarter by scoring 10 points in a nine-second span.

MU junior kicker Justin Rohrwasser booted a 32-yard field goal through the uprights with 9:20 left of the third quarter to trim the NC State lead to 23-10, and on the ensuing kickoff sophomore linebacker Jaquan Yulee leveled the Wolfpack kick returner, forcing a fumble that was picked up by senior linebacker Artis Johnson and returned it 22 yards for a touchdown. The Herd trailed 23-17 with 9:11 left of the third quarter.

Marshall could not sustain the momentum.

NC State (3-0) put together a quick six-play, 75-yard scoring drive that took 1:47, culminating in a 30-yard touchdown strike from quarterback Ryan Finley to receiver Emeka Emezie that gave the Wolfpack a 30-17 lead.

"I thought there in the second half when we got that kickoff fumble and returned it for a touchdown that momentum kind of went our way a little bit," Holliday said. "They went down and ended up scoring that next drive. We have to get better as a team."

The Herd answered with another field goal by Rohrwasser to make it 30-20 with 3:05 left of the third quarter.

The Marshall defense came through on the next possession to force an NC State punt, but the Herd's next drive ended when Green tossed an interception that was returned 57 yards for a touchdown. NC State carried a 37-20 lead into the fourth quarter. Neither team scored in the final 15 minutes.

Finley, projected as a first round pick in the next National Football League draft, was sharp against the Herd again. He finished 23-for-40 passing with 377 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions. He found seven different targets, led by junior receiver Kelvin Harmon, who finished with six catches for 150 yards. All of Harmon's production was in the first half.

"They've got good receivers and they've got a quarterback who is in his fifth year," Holliday said. "(Finley) makes all the throws and he did tonight, and their receivers came up big and made some tremendous plays on third down. Our guys were all over them at times and they made some plays."

NC State outgained Marshall 502-324, and maintained possession for 34:40 of the 60 minutes. The Wolfpack finished 9 of 16 on third downs, while the Herd was 6 of 17. NC State was plus-two in the turnover battle.

Holliday said the defense could not find a way to slow Finley, who averaged 16.4 yards per completion.

"We knew going in he was going to make plays," Holliday said. "Those receivers out there looked like basketball players. They were all 6-3, 6-4. They had length and he was able to throw some tremendous balls in there."

The game started slow on both sides. There were three punts before NC State put up the first points on a 30-yard field goal by Christopher Dunn. That culminated a 12-play, 61-yard drive that took 5 minutes and 15 seconds, and was set up by a third-and-short stop by the Herd defense.

The Wolfpack added to its lead on the next possession, an eight-play, 80-yard drive that took 3:48. Finley carried out a play fake and junior receiver Kelvin Harmon worked his way behind the MU defense, and dove for a 46-yard catch to the Herd 4. Three plays later, senior running back Reggie Gallaspy, Jr., plunged in from 1-yard out to make it 10-0 with 14:55 left of the second quarter.

After the Green-to-Williams touchdown connection in the second quarter, NC State scored for the third consecutive drive. The possession fizzled at the MU 14 when junior safety Malik Gant broke up a pass near the goalline, and Dunn settled for a 31-yard field goal to make it 13-7, Wolfpack, with 9:20 left of the first half.

Following a Marshall punt, NC State padded its lead with an eight-play, 70-yard drive that chewed more than four minutes off the clock. The drive featured another Finley-to-Harmon connection, this one for 38 yards to the MU 33, and then Gallaspy finished the drive with a 1-yard touchdown – his second of the game –  to make it 20-7 with 2:33 left of the second quarter.

The Thundering Herd tried to whittle away at the deficit before the half, but the drive ended on a fumble by Green at the NC State 44. The MU offense converted once on the drive on fourth down, but Green lost the handle on the ball as he ran to the left on fourth-and-2.

NC State took over with 30 seconds left of the second quarter and marched to the MU 9 to set up a short field goal attempt. The Wolfpack completed passes of 19 and 27 yards to get within range, and then Dunn converted a 26-yard attempt to make it 23-7 at intermission.

For Marshall, Green completed 22 of 43 pass attempts for 270 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. He was credited with all three of the offense's turnovers. Sophomore Tyler King led the team in rushing with 30 yards on nine attempts, while versatile back Keion Davis added 17 yards on the ground and 99 yards receiving.

Herd senior receiver Tyre Brady, who shattered records with 248 yards against NC State last season, was held to three catches for 25 yards. Williams added four receptions for 87 yards.

Defensively, three players tied for the team lead in tackles with eight (Frankie HernandezChase Hancock and Malik Gant). Hancock, a senior linebacker, and defensive lineman Channing Hamescombined on a sack.

Marshall begins Conference USA play next Saturday, Sept. 29, at Western Kentucky. Kickoff for that game is set for 7:30 p.m.




Chuck McGill is the Assistant Athletic Director for Fan/Donor Engagement and Communications at Marshall University and a six-time winner of the National Sports Media Association West Virginia Sportswriter of the Year award. In addition to's Word on the Herd, McGill is the editor of Thundering Herd Illustrated, Marshall's official athletics publication. Follow him on Twitter (@chuckmcgill) and Instagram (wordontheherd).

  1. Game Stats (3.2 MB)
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