Special to HNN Provided by Herd Zone
Herd Falls to UAB
Photo from Herd Zone

By Chuck McGill

Huntington – Charles Huff, in his first year as Marshall's head football coach, embraced the meaning of this week.

Huff took his team to Spring Hill Cemetery on Friday night before they bused to the hotel for a night of rest. He woke up before dawn on Saturday morning and headed to the site of the Marshall plane crash, which devastated this community and football program 51 years ago this weekend. On Sunday, Huff will speak at the annual fountain ceremony.

"I understand fully how much this weekend means to a lot of people, myself included," Huff said after Saturday night's 21-14 loss to UAB. "I thought we fought hard. That's what Marshall is about. That's what Marshall will always be about."

Huff's Herd tried to win Saturday at Joan C. Edwards Stadium, but it wasn't meant to be. Marshall fell to 6-4 overall and 4-2 in Conference USA, but remains in contention to win the league's East Division and compete for a conference championship.

"The course has changed," Huff said, "but the goal has not. If we were able to write the story it would be totally different, but it's not that way."

Marshall had an opportunity to drive and tie the game against the visiting Blazers, but an interception sealed the win for the defending C-USA champions.

"We'll learn from it," Huff said. "We've got to be much better offensively on third down. It's going to be hard to win football games when you can't convert third downs."

The Herd was 1-for-12 on third downs on Saturday in front of 19,329 at home. Marshall had 269 yards of total offense in the loss.

"We've got to be better – all the way across the board," Huff said. "We have got to execute a lot more consistently in order to beat a football team of that caliber."

Marshall tried to claw back after an early two-touchdown disadvantage. UAB built a 14-0 lead in the first quarter thanks to lengthy drives filled with big pass plays.

The Blazers made quick work on the opening possession of the game, driving 81 yards on five plays before DeWayne McBride scored from 3 yards out with 12:39 left of the opening period. Prior to McBride's seventh touchdown in his last three games, quarterback Dylan Hopkins connected with Trea Shropshire for a 64-yard completion to put UAB on the Herd's doorstep.

Later in the first quarter, McBride scored again on a 15-yard run, bullying his way into the end zone to cap an 11-play, 99-yard drive that chewed six minutes and 13 seconds off the clock. UAB's big play again came from a Hopkins-Shropshire hook up, a 36-yard play on third down and 1.

The Herd was able to trim the deficit in half prior to intermission.

Quarterback Grant Wells was able to complete six passes to as many receivers on the scoring drive – 19 yards to Willie Johnson; 9 yards to Corey Gammage; 7 yards to Shadeed Ahmed; 12 yards to Rasheen Ali; 4 yards to Xavier Gaines and a 36-yard bomb to Jayden Harrison for the touchdown. Harrison's second receiving TD of the season and third total touchdown in his last four games made it 14-7, Blazers, with 1:05 left of the second quarter.

Marshall rallied in the third quarter to tie when Wells faked left and threw back to his left to Gammage, who followed blockers into the end zone for the receiver's first touchdown of 2021. Two plays earlier, Wells threw deep to Johnson on fourth down and 3, but a pass interference call on UAB gave Marshall the momentum.

That was short-lived, as Hopkins threw down the right sideline for a 51-yard gain by Gerrit Prince, and 6 plays later Hopkins scored on a keeper to give the Blazers the lead for good. The score, which put UAB ahead, 21-14, with 36 seconds left of the third quarter, is the first score against the Herd defense by an opposing offense this season.