HERD ZONE: McGill - Herd Delivers Big in Rout of N. Texas

By Chuck McGill

DENTON, Texas – Marshall didn't mess around in front of a nationally televised audience here Friday night. Under the lights, the Thundering Herd recorded a big result with big-time individual accomplishments.

Grant Wells starred throwing and running the ball and Marshall won by its largest margin of victory ever in Texas, a 49-21 decision against North Texas at Apogee Stadium.

The game was carried nationally by CBS Sports Network in a state where Friday nights are revered. The Thundering Herd lived up to the billing.

Marshall scored 42 points in the first half and never felt threated in moving to 4-3 overall and 2-1 in Conference USA. North Texas dropped its fifth consecutive game, falling to 1-5 overall and 0-3 in C-USA.

"The first half we played together in all three phases," Marshall first-year head coach Charles Huff said. "We played together as a team."

Wells made history via air and ground, accounting for five total touchdowns. The reigning C-USA Freshman of the Year completed 18 consecutive passes, breaking the single game record held by Eric Kresser (14 in 1996). Kresser's mark spanned two games – the final 10 throws vs. The Citadel and the first four to open the game against East Tennessee State.

Wells finished 24 for 32 passing for 323 yards and two touchdowns, but also was effective near the goal line with three rushing TDs. The last Marshall QB to score three rushing touchdowns was Michael Payton in 1990.

"It's what we see every day at practice," Huff said. "The warrior we talked about at the end of the game is the warrior who ran for three touchdowns today. That's who he is. It helps when we have some first down efficiency.

"What we saw tonight: he was comfortable; he managed some of the throws; he made some good reads."

Wells had plenty of help on offense.

Freshman running back Rasheen Ali finished with 109 yards rushing and another 50 receiving, and twice scored on the ground. Six different receivers had two or more receptions and six also had 25 or more receiving yards.

The Herd defense continued to hit midseason form, forcing the home team to 5 of 16 on third downs and 0 for 5 on fourth downs. Marshall also had a pair of interceptions.

"Our defense played really well for three weeks in a row," Huff said. "It's a new system and our guys are getting comfortable with it."

The first half was a blur of points and yards for Marshall and punts and penalties for North Texas. By intermission, the Thundering Herd had more touchdowns (six) than the host Mean Green had first downs (five).

Marshall went three-and-out on its first offensive possession, then scored touchdowns on six consecutive drives.

College football's leading scorer, Ali, scored twice on the ground – the first from 8 yards out to open scoring, and then again on a 1-yard plunge with 2:18 left of the first half. Wells also scored twice on the ground in the first half, both from 3 yards out. Wells found receiver Jayden Harrison uncovered in the left flat and Harrison raced 6 yards for a touchdown with 14:24 left of the second quarter. Wells hit a wide open Xavier Gaines down the middle for a 33-yard touchdown.

Overall, the Herd scored 14 first quarter points and then 28 more in the second. By halftime, Marshall had a 348-132 advantage in total offense, 280-41 lead in passing yards, and a dominant 18-5 advantage in first downs.

Marshall finished with 477 total yards of offense – 323 passing and 154 rushing.

Defensively, senior safety Nazeeh Johnson led the way with eight tackles. Sophomore linebacker Eli Neal had a sack, two tackles for a loss and an interception. Senior safety Cory McCoy had an interception for the second consecutive week.

Chuck McGill is the Assistant Athletic Director for Fan/Donor Engagement and Communications at Marshall University and a nine-time winner of the National Sports Media Association West Virginia Sportswriter of the Year award. In addition to HerdZone.com'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).