Herd Blanks FIU, 38-0

Special to HNN Provided by Herd Zone
Herd Blanks FIU, 38-0
Photo courtesy Herd Zone

By Chuck McGill

HUNTINGTON– Eventually, points came in rushes.

After 3 points in the first three drives, Marshall took to the ground. As the Thundering Herd defense dominated on a rainy day at Joan C. Edwards Stadium, three different ball carriers scored on second quarter runs to help Marshall to a 38-0 win against visiting FIU on Saturday.

Overall, the Herd (5-3 overall, 3-1 Conference USA) finished with five rushing touchdowns and recorded the program's first shutout of a Football Bowl Subdivision opponent since 2018. The Panthers (1-7, 0-4) lost their seventh consecutive game.

"We probably had our best week of practice that we've had all year," Marshall first-year head coach Charles Huff said. "From an energy standpoint; from a focus standpoint; and from a leadership standpoint. Players did a phenomenal job of taking it from the practice field to the game."

While the defense dazzled again and one of the nation's top offenses displayed balance, it was a special teams play that turned the Herd's day around.

FIU punter Tommy Heatherly booted a booming punt 63 yards that senior Willie Johnson returned a career long 38 yards, setting up a short field for the Marshall offense. After the first three drives ended on a punt, field goal and punt, the Herd rattled off three straight touchdown drives, each capped by a rushing TD by a different player.

Quarterback Grant Wells scored from 2 yards out seven plays after Johnson's big return. Running back Sheldon Evans fought off would-be tacklers and scampered 41 yards for a touchdown to end a two-play drive. Then, the nation's leader in rushing touchdowns, Rasheen Ali, capped a nine-play, 77-yard drive with a 6-yard scoring run. The 21 points came in a span of 5 minutes and 44 seconds.

"Ali and Shell did a phenomenal job of breaking tackles and making it to the next level," Huff said. "Grant played probably his most consistent game."

On the other side of the ball, Marshall followed up strong defensive performances in wins against Old Dominion and North Texas by shutting out its first FBS opponent since UTSA in November of 2018. On Saturday, FIU didn't make it to the red zone until the third quarter – its only trip inside the 20 – and 12 possessions ended without points.

"It's hard to get a shutout in college football," Huff said. "Hats off to Coach Guidry, the defensive staff and defensive players."

The standout performance in all three phases – which also included a blocked field goal by Marshall to close the first half – had the Herd in control, 31-0, by the start of the fourth quarter. Huff pulled several starters and let the reserves get a chance to shine in the final period. The final score came on a 1-yard touchdown plunge by freshman running back Ethan Payne. He was the fourth different MU ball carrier to score.

Wells finished 20-for-25 passing for 184 yards. Ali carried 26 times for 133 yards and two touchdowns, his fourth 100-yard rushing performance of the season. Receiver Shadeed Ahmed and tight end Xavier Gaines each had a team-high five receptions, while Ahmed paced the Herd with 52 receiving yards.

Linebacker Eli Neal led the Herd defense with eight tackles. Defensive lineman Koby Cumberlander added a sack with two tackles, and cornerback Steven Gilmore picked off his third pass of the season.

Next up for Marshall: FAU in Boca Raton, Florida, next Saturday.