In control of the game from the first drive to the last, the Marshall University football team routed Western Kentucky 38-14 on Saturday in Bowling Green, Kentucky, after a three-week break in action.
“I was concerned with being off three weeks and being rusty and all that,” Head Coach Doc Holiday said. “But I thought our kids came out and started fast like we always try to do.”
In their first road game of the season, things did indeed start fast for the Thundering Herd, taking the opening drive for a touchdown in just two plays. A 30-yard completion to sophomore wide receiver Broc Thompson from redshirt freshman quarterback Grant Wells was followed by a 45–yard TD run by redshirt junior running back Brenden Knox.
The Marshall defense started equally as strong, forcing a three-and-out on Western Kentucky’s first offensive drive.
The theme continued for the rest of the first half. With a 263-79 total yard advantage, Marshall took a 28-0 lead into halftime.
In the first half, Knox went for three touchdowns and 82 yards on 10 carries. Wells was an effective 12-16 with 137 yards. As a team, the Herd averaged 7.3 yards per play while the Hilltoppers averaged 3.2.
Western Kentucky ran just two plays in Marshall territoryand lost two fumbles, both leading to Marshall TDs.
Senior linebacker Tavante Beckett scooped up both fumbles for the Herd, and there would one more to come in the second half.
The only negative for the Herd throughout the first half was their four penalties of which some could attribute to the sloppiness expected after the three-week layoff.
The second half was much quieter for the Marshall offense. Still, the Herd put 10 points on the board through other means.
On Western Kentucky’s second drive of the second half, running back Jakairi Moses lost the ball; Beckett recovered it and took it the endzone for a score, putting the Herd up 35-0.
“I’m just grateful that I’ve got good teammates and great teammates that’s going to get the ball out,” Beckett said, “and all I have to do is fall on it.”
Beckett’s three fumble recoveries in a single game is tied for the Marshall record, according to Chuck McGill of HerdZone.
After acquiring a short field, Marshall added a field goal to grow its lead by three more points.
Eventually, Western Kentucky scored and ended the potential of a Marshall shutout. Still, the Herd remained in control.
In full manage-the-clock mode, Marshall’s offense ran the ball 21 times in the second half and attempted merely six passes.
With six seconds left in the game, the Hilltoppers punched it into the endzone for the final score of the game, bringing the final score and yardage numbers closer than the game actually was.
In the team-oriented victory, Marshall did not have many standout individual performances.
On defense, Beckett was a clear standout because of his three fumble recoveries, but overall, it was a balanced team effort. Exemplifying the team’s cohesion, seven different guys had a pass breakup, and 21 players recorded at least one tackle.
On offense, Wells did not score any touchdowns, but he was efficient with the ball, not turning it over. Holiday said he continues to play with a lot of poise for a such a young player.
Knox put together the most evident standout performancefor the Herd with 107 yards and three TDs on 15 carries.
“You look up and Knox is over a hundred yards, which is what he does,” Holiday said. “You know what you’re going to get out of him every week.”
Marshall moved to 3-0 on the season and 1-0 in Conference USA, while Western Kentucky fell to 1-3 overall and 1-1 in the conference.
The Thundering Herd will be back on the road next Saturday when they travel to Ruston, Louisiana to take on the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs (3-1; 2-0).
Grant Goodrich can be contacted at [email protected]