MCGILL: Marshall Puts Together Dominant Team Win For the 75

Updated 48 weeks ago
MCGILL: Marshall Puts Together Dominant Team Win For the 75

By Chuck McGill with HerdZone.com

This is no secret: Marshall is tough to beat on its annual memorial game.  

This was hush-hush, though: Marshall had a secret weapon to unleash on visiting Louisiana Tech on Friday night.

Senior Obi Obialo, who hadn't played since December's Gasparilla Bowl and had declared himself out for the season on social media, made a triumphant return in the Thundering Herd's 31-10 win against the Conference USA West-leading Bulldogs. Obialo set career-highs in receptions (eight) and yards (146), helping Marshall to a three-touchdown win in front of a nationally televised audience.

A day before, the 75 people who lost their lives in the 1970 football team plane were remembered in a solemn ceremony in the center of campus. The team paid tribute with a 75 on the side of their helmets, and the players donned the all-black uniforms they keep in the closest until this game every season. That, Marshall coach Doc Holliday said, might explain why the Herd stumbled out of the gate and trailed 7-0 after the first quarter before outscoring LA Tech 31-3 the rest of the way.

"Sometimes kids are so emotional starting that game that things don't go well early on because they're a little bit over-emotional," Holliday said. "They settled in."

Marshall scored 17 points in the second quarter for a 10-point halftime lead, then watched the Bulldogs trim that deficit to 7 points, 17-10, with 4:04 left of the third quarter. The Herd scored 14 unanswered points to close out the win, the team's fifth in a row. Marshall is 7-3 overall and 5-1 in Conference USA play, and controls its destiny in the race to win the East and advance to the C-USA championship game on Dec. 7.

"I'm proud of the ways our kids showed up and played the game," Holliday said.

Obialo, especially. He had set a career-high for receiving yards midway through the second quarter, eclipsing his personal-best of 103 yards set last season against UTSA. Three times in his career Obialo had six catches in a game, but soared past that total Friday, too. Sophomore quarterback Isaiah Green finished 14 for 26 passing with 211 yards and one touchdown. Obialo's fellow pass-catchers combined for six receptions and 65 yards.

"How about Obi?" Holliday said. "He was our best receiver going into the season, we lost him and then snuck him in there today."

Obialo was injured during preseason camp and did not return until the team's 10th game of the season. Holliday said the senior from Coppell, Texas, had practiced during the team's off week, but he wasn't going to let the secret slip.

After Friday's game, Green glanced at a stat sheet while awaiting his turn to talk to the media.

"Obi had a day, huh?" Green said.

He elaborated when talking to the media.

"I know what type of player Obi is," Green said. "There's not too many people in this league who can stop him, regardless if they know he's playing or not."

Louisiana Tech took the lead in the first quarter when star running back Justin Henderson scored on a 5-yard run. The Herd offense went scoreless on its first four possessions.

Marshall's fortunes began to swing midway through the second quarter. After falling behind 7-0 early – Louisiana Tech scored a touchdown on its second drive of the game – the Herd started to rally, first getting on the board on a 44-yard field goal by Justin Rohrwasser with 6:58 left of the second quarter. That drive was highlighted by a 41-yard reception by Obialo, which gave the senior a career-high 111 receiving yards with nearly 37 minutes left of the game.

After the Marshall defense forced a three-and-out, the Herd offense put together a go-ahead drive. After sophomore running back Brenden Knox dropped a pass on first down, Green found freshman receiver Talik Keaton for a 34-yard connection to get Marshall in the red zone. One play later, Green lofted a beautiful ball to the back right corner of the end zone, and junior receiver Willie Johnson elevated over the LA Tech defensive back for a touchdown to put the Herd in the lead, 10-7, with 4:25 left.

That lead grew after the Bulldogs' special teams had a costly miscue while standing near its own goalline. LA Tech punter Brady Farlow bobbled the ball as he tried to rotate it in his hands, and he had to fall on the ball at the 1-yard line. Two plays later, Knox muscled his way into the end zone with 40 seconds left to give Marshall a 17-7 lead at the half.

Green and Knox took care of the second-half scoring – both on runs. Green scored from 17 yards out with 33 seconds left of the third quarter to build a 24-10 lead, and then Knox scored for a second time from 4 yards out with 6:25 left of the fourth quarter.

Knox rushed for 113 yards and surpassed the 1,000-yard mark for the season. 

The defense shined as a unit.

Louisiana Tech entered Friday's game tops in Conference USA in scoring offense and total offense, but the Herd held the Bulldogs to a season-low 261 yards of total offense. While Marshall gained 405 yards – 213 passing and 192 rushing – LA Tech managed 194 passing yards and 67 rushing yards.

Louisiana Tech also entered the game 23-for-23 on red zone conversions this season – and 36 for 38 overall – but twice moved inside the 20 and didn't come away with points.

Junior linebacker Tavante Beckett led Marshall with 13 tackles. Sophomore defensive back Steven Gilmore iced the game with a late interception.

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