Marshall Returns to Huntington Oct. 9 for Homecoming Game Against ODU

HERDZONE: McGill - Turnovers Doom Herd in C-USA Opener

By Chuck McGill

Murfreesboro, Tenn. – The rain, occasionally heavy and swirling around Johnny "Red" Floyd Stadium, made Saturday night's Conference USA matchup dark and dreary.

Marshall's turnovers made the game darker and drearier.

After the Thundering Herd's 34-28 loss to Middle Tennessee here on the soggy turf, first-year Marshall head coach Charles Huff focused on his team's six turnovers. Slippery conditions or not, he deemed the giveaways unacceptable. After all, his team lost by as many points as it had turnovers.

"We all saw the issues tonight," Huff said. "It's something we've been talking about, talking about, talking about and we've got to get it fixed. Turnovers killed us. Every time we got something going momentum-wise we put the ball on the ground."

Overall, Marshall lost four fumbles and added a couple of interceptions. That helped the host Blue Raiders (2-3 overall, 1-2 C-USA) build a 28-7 lead. It was the inverse of the Herd's previous two losses, which featured fourth quarter leads that turned into defeats. This time, Marshall (2-3, 0-1) had to try and claw back into the game, but after an onside kick was touched before it had spun end-over-end the required 10 yards, the comeback was squelched.

"I did appreciate … we got to see the guys' fight," Huff said. "It came right down to the end. But when you put yourself that far behind, it's difficult to be successful."

Middle Tennessee built a 14-0 lead by early in the fourth quarter. Backup quarterback Mike DiLiello scored on a 3-yard quarterback keeper to open scoring in the first. Starting QB Chase Cunningham, coming off an impressive five-touchdown performance a week ago, found receiver Jarrin Pierce for a 13-yard touchdown connection with 12:41 left of the second quarter to make it a two-score game. The call was originally ruled incomplete on the field, but a review overturned that decision.

Marshall broke into the scoring on the ensuing drive when redshirt freshman running back Rasheen Ali scored on a 12-yard run. Ali has now scored at least one touchdown in some form – rushing, receiving or on special teams – in all five Herd games this season.

Then, the Blue Raiders started to take control. Chaton Mobley rumbled straight up the middle for a 41-yard touchdown run with 9:04 left of the first half, and then Jaylin Lane caught a 34-yard touchdown pass from Cunningham down the left sideline to give MT a 28-7 lead.

Ali scored again, from 1-yard out, with under a minute left before intermission to cut the deficit to 14 points.

After the turnovers started to pile up, the Marshall coaching staff tried its hand at other options on offense. A fumble by sophomore running back Knowledge McDaniel as returned 90 yards for a touchdown to make it 34-14, Middle Tennessee, with 2:30 left of the third quarter. Those are the first points scored against Marshall in the third quarter this season, but it was the Blue Raiders' final score of the night.

The Herd rallied in the fourth quarter, first scoring on a 2-yard Ali run and then on a 17-yard pass from quarterback Grant Wells to receiver Shadeed Ahmed. That score came with 1:12 left of the game.

Marshall then tried an onside kick, but officials ruled the ball was touched before it had rolled 10 yards. Middle Tennessee ran out the clock from there and handed the Herd a loss in its C-USA opener.

During its three-game losing skid, Marshall has lost by 4 points (East Carolina), 1 point (Appalachian State) and 6 points.

"We're close. That's what we are," Huff 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."

Ali finished with 113 rushing yards and another 48 receiving with three touchdowns. He has scored two or more touchdowns in three straight games, the 13th player in school history to accomplish that feat.

Wells completed 31 of 47 passes for 321 yards, his fourth 300-yard game this season.

Corey Gammage led all receivers with 81 yards, surpassing the 1,000-yard mark for his career. Ahmed added 67 yards on seven catches.

On defense, safeties E.J. Jackson and Nazeeh Johnson led the way with seven tackles, but it was Jamare Edwards who dominated individually. Edwards, a defensive tackle, finished with four tackles – 3.5 for a loss – and a sack.

Johnson also recorded his sixth career interception.