Herd’s Team Effort Ends FAU’s Home Win Streak

Special to HNN Provided by Herd Zone
Herd’s Team Effort Ends FAU’s Home Win Streak
Photo from Herd Zone

By Chuck McGill 

Boca Raton, Fla. – If Marshall wanted to make this a November to remember, a win here Saturday night was likely a must. 

 

The Conference USA East Division race is now a two-way tie for first after Marshall rallied to defeat host Florida Atlantic, 28-13, at FAU Stadium. The Thundering Herd, now with bowl eligibility at 6-3 overall, is 4-1 in C-USA East play and is tied with Western Kentucky atop the division with three games to play.  

Marshall is 9-2 in November games the past four seasons. Saturday's performance had highlights on both sides of the ball and special teams, the latter of which had another kickoff return for a touchdown.  

Redshirt sophomore transfer Jayden Harrison opened the game with a 99-yard kickoff return to give the Herd the lead after 14 seconds. Although the Owls took temporary command from there – scoring on a five-play, 75-yard drive and then adding a pair of field goals – it was freshman running back Rasheen Ali and a stingy defense that combined to take over midway through the second quarter.  

Ali scored two first half rushing touchdowns – the first from 2 yards out and then a beautiful run to the left with 36 seconds left of the half – to give Marshall an 8-point halftime cushion, 21-13. Ali also had a 75-yard touchdown run negated by an illegal block penalty.  

As Ali took charge, the Marshall defense displayed the performance that has the team on a four-game winning streak as the division race heats up. FAU managed two field goals and four punts on its final seven possessions of the first half, never getting closer than the MU 20 after the opening scoring drive until its final drive of the game. That possession ended on the MU 18 when N'Kosi Perry couldn't find an open receiver on fourth and 8 and effectively ended the game. 

That drive culminated an impressive overall performance by the Herd defense, which held the Owls scoreless over the final 47 minutes. The MU defense has still not allowed a point in the third quarter this season.  

Marshall built its lead to 15 points, 28-13, when freshman quarterback Grant Wells and senior receiver Willie Johnson had a historical connection. Wells found Johnson streaking up the right sideline, and Johnson, in his final regular season game in his home state of Florida, raced 65 yards for the touchdown. On that pass, Wells passed Isaiah Green for No. 12 on the program's career passing yardage list, and Johnson moved into the Top 20 in career receiving yards. That pass also put Wells above 300 passing yards for the sixth time in nine games this season.  

FAU's best scoring chance in the second half actually came after a Herd punt was downed at the 1. The Owls drove 75 yards, but Marshall safety Cory McCoy stripped the ball loose and recovered it to thwart the threat.  

After a field goal with 13:31 left of the second quarter, FAU did not score a point on its final nine possessions.  

Wells finished 26 of 38 passing for 352 yards, one touchdown and one interception. Ali contributed via land and air – 85 rushing yards and a career-high 70 receiving yards. Johnson led all receivers with 140 yards, which is also a new personal career high.  

On defense, linebacker Abraham Beauplan led the Herd with nine tackles. Defensive linemen Owen Porter and Koby Cumberlander each finished with 1.5 sacks. 

Marshall returns home to face UAB next Saturday, Nov. 13, in a rematch of the 2020 C-USA Championship game. The Blazers are the reigning conference champs.  

Kickoff for that game is set for 3:30 p.m., and the game will be televised nationally by CBS Sports Network. 

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).