Marshall downs Old Dominion, 27-7

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Marshall University’s football team (4-1) used a strong defensive performance to down Old Dominion University (2-3) Saturday 27-7 in a rainy Joan C. Edwards Stadium in both teams’ Conference USA opener.

The Herd’s defense held the Monarchs to just 285 total yards and 117 of those yards came through the first three quarters.

“I thought defensively we played tremendous,” Marshall head coach Doc Holliday said. “We did some really good things on special teams again, and I thought offensively we grew up a little bit in the second half and did some good things.”

The Herd received the opening kickoff, but Hyleck Foster fumbled and the Monarchs recovered at the Marshall 37-yard line.

Marshall’s defense responded nicely, however, and on fourth-and-7 from the 34-yard line, the Herd forced an incomplete pass to give its offense the ball back.

The Herd’s offense moved the ball on its next possession until running back Tony Pittman fumbled inside the ODU 10-yard line and the Monarchs recovered at its own 7.

After an exchange of punts, Marshall’s defense came up big when Gary Thompson recovered a fumble after sacking ODU quarterback Shuler Bentley. The Herd’s offense took over at the Monarchs’ 10-yard line.

And just one play later, Marshall quarterback Chase Litton connected with wide receiver Deon-Tay McManus for a 10-yard touchdown pass to put the Herd in front 7-0 with 5:14 remaining in the first quarter.

On ODU’s next offensive possession, Marshall cornerback Corey Tindal intercepted Bentley on first down and set the Herd’s offense up at its own 43-yard line.

The Herd’s offense went on its most impressive drive of the game early in the second quarter and after a 13-play, 85-yard drive, Pittman found the end zone from 1 yard out to extend Marshall’s lead to 14-0 with 6:06 remaining in the second quarter.

Marshall’s defense forced another fumble on the Monarchs’ next offensive possession. Linebacker Shawn Petty forced the fumble and freshman defensive lineman Ryan Bee, who finished with 12 tackles, two sacks and three tackles for loss, recovered at the Herd’s 30-yard line.

“I come to work every day, and seeing it pay off out there is the biggest reward,” Bee said. “When your time comes, you’ve got to step up to the plate and make a play, and that’s what I was trying to do out there.”

The second quarter came to a close with Marshall holding a 14-0 lead.

Mid-way through the third quarter, the Herd’s offense found the end zone again when Litton connected with tight end Ryan Yurachek from 7 yards out to extend Marshall’s lead to 21-0 with 8:10 remaining in the third quarter.

Following a defensive stand, Marshall’s offense embarked on a 15-play, 46-yard drive that was capped off by a Nick Smith field goal from 37 yards out to extend the Herd’s lead to 24-0 with 13:35 remaining in the fourth quarter.

Marshall’s defense forced another stop on ODU’s next possession and the offense turned it into another field goal when Smith connected on a 39-yard field goal to extend the lead to 27-0 with 11:10 remaining in the fourth quarter.

After an exchange of possessions, the Monarchs’ offense finally found the end zone for the first time when running back Ray Lawry took it in from 10 yards out to cut the Herd’s lead to 27-7 with 2:53 remaining in the game.

Safety Kendall Gant recorded his first career interception on the final play of the game to set the final score at 27-7.

Litton completed 21 of 35 passes for 212 yards and two touchdowns to no interceptions. Pittman finished with 32 carries for 127 yards and one touchdown to lead the Herd on the ground.

Yurachek finished with six catches for 63 yards and one touchdown and Deandre Reaves finished with 6 catches for 70 yards to both lead all receivers.

Linebacker Evan McKelvey led the Herd in tackles with 13.

Petty, who played in his first game at Marshall following his transfer from the University of Maryland, finished with eight tackles, one tackle for loss and one forced fumble. He said he was happy to finally play for the Herd

“It felt good to be out there back on defense,” he said. “We had a great performance all around, so it felt good.”

Holliday said it was important for the team to start C-USA play on a high note. “The important thing is we’re 1-0 in the league and we’ve got a great challenge here Friday night where we’ve got the opportunity again to showcase our program just like the Purdue game. We’ll be the only game on.”

The Herd has a short week leading up to its showdown with the Southern Miss Golden Eagles Friday.

“No days off,” Petty said. “We’re going to prepare for Friday like we did for this Saturday and it’s a shorter time, so we’ve got to work a little bit harder.”

“It’s going to be a great opportunity for us to showcase our football program, our community and our school and I know our players are looking forward to it,” Holliday said. “We’ve got a short week, so coaches and players have to get back to work tonight.”

Marshall and Southern Miss kickoff at 7 p.m. Friday from Joan C. Edwards Stadium and the game will nationally televised on CBS Sports Network.