Johnson, Herd run away from Owls

Shannon Stowers, Assistant Sports Editor

Nobody said the road to an undefeated season would be easy, and for the most part, it wasn’t for the Thundering Herd Saturday, but running back Devon Johnson sure made it look that way.

Signs of a record-breaking day could be seen on the Herd’s first offensive play when Johnson took the hand-off 58-yards untouched for a touchdown. The junior would look untouchable for most of the afternoon, running for a Marshall University single-game record 273 yards. Johnson also found the end zone four times, scoring all but one of the Herd’s touchdowns in its 35-16 win over the Florida Atlantic University Owls.

Johnson said he didn’t even realize he was in contention for the record and couldn’t have done it without some help from his teammates.

“[I didn’t now about the record] until they said it over the speakers, but all of the credit goes to the line,” Johnson said. “Without them, I couldn’t have got it.”

Despite Johnson’s success on the ground, the Herd trailed for 5:47 in the first half, more than it had trailed all season.

The Owls used a fast-paced tempo to keep the Herd defense on its heels and extend its lead to 13-7 with 6:35 left in the first half. Just like he did when the Owls took a 3-0 lead to start the game, Johnson quickly answered with a 62- yard run 28 seconds later.

The Herd offense looked like it was going to take a blow when Johnson headed to the locker room within minutes of getting his second touchdown. With Johnson out, the offense stalled for the rest of the half as the Owls took a 16-14 lead into halftime.

Johnson took the field when the second half started, though, but the offense continued to struggle until quarterback Rakeem Cato found wide receiver Tommy Shuler for a 21-yard touchdown. Cato would finish with 218 yards and one touchdown.

While the offense searched for its rhythm in the third quarter, the Herd defense stepped up, coming up with critical stops on third downs and not letting the Owls score in the second half. Leading the defense was linebackers Neville Hewitt and Jermaine Holmes, who each had 18 tackles.

A key stop, and turning point in the game, came when defensive back Darryl Roberts swatted away a potential touchdown pass on fourth and goal in the fourth quarter. Following Roberts’ touchdown-saving play, Johnson rumbled for 66 yards and his third touchdown, pushing the score to 28-16 1:55 into the fourth quarter.

Johnson said the team was prepared to have a close game at some point this season and liked how the team embraced adversity.

“We knew we were going to have a game like this, and I’m glad we did,” Johnson said. “We fought through the adversity, and came back and won.”

With just under six minutes left in the fourth quarter, defensive end Arnold Blackmon kept the momentum in the Herd’s favor when he sacked FAU’s Jaquez Johnson on fourth down.

Johnson would put the final two nails in the coffin on the Herd’s final drive of the game. On a 2-yard run late in the fourth quarter he broke Ron Darby’s school record set in 1988 and six plays later he would get his fourth touchdown of the game, making the score 35-16.

Head coach Doc Holliday said he liked how the team responded in the second half after trailing at halftime.

“A great football team, at some point in the year, is going to have some adversity and will have to find a way to go win a football game and guess what, that’s what happened to us today,” Holliday said. “I thought they responded extremely well in the second half.”

The Herd has a week off before it travels to the University of Southern Mississippi Nov. 8.

Shannon Stowers can be contacted at [email protected].