Football

Marshall Stumbles To 3-9 Year With 60-6 Loss To WKU

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HUNTINGTON — The Thundering Herd had statistician tearing through the Marshall football record book as the team finished a snake-bit season with a 60-6 loss to WKU. The Hilltoppers clinched their second straight Conference USA East Division title with the win, improving to 9-3 on the year, 7-1 in C-USA and winning the division despite a conference record for Old Dominion of 7-1 — losing the head-to-head tie-breaker with WKU.

Marshall fell to 3-9 on the season, the worst finish for a Doc Holliday coached team since he took over in 2010, and 2-6 in C-USA, the worst record against the league since the Herd jumped from the Mid-American Conference to C-USA in 2005. With the loss — the worst Marshall loss in the history of the Joan C. Edwards Stadium since it opened in 1991.

It was also the worst loss for the program since MU lost to Louisville in a designated Southern Conference game in 1977, falling 56-0 at Fairfield Stadium. The Herd recorded its first losing season at JCE Stadium, finishing 3-4 in league play this year. Marshall had finished 3-3 four times in C-USA since 2005, the last time in 2012 when Holliday’s Herd was 5-7, the last losing season for Marshall.

The team took first time losses to teams including at Pittsburgh (first game all-time), at North Texas, at Old Dominion and at FIU and as loss to Charlotte at home. The Herd also lost at Southern Miss, making the road record 0-for-5 trips.

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Marshall announced the attendance for the WKU game at 17, 397, but there were many less by the end of the 60-6 loss. (Herd Insider photo with NOVATEK CAMERA by Greg Perry)

It was quite a reversal this season for the Herd, as an announced crowd of 17, 397 for the start of the game had fell to about 10 percent of that number by the end of the game — which was totally dominated by WKU, now 3-0 versus the Herd since joining C-USA in 2014 from the Sun Belt Conference. Marshall gave up the first score not on a first drive by the Hilltoppers, as they had in 7-of-the-last-8 games but on the opening kickoff when Kylen Towner raced 93 yards for a score with just 14 seconds off the clock.

WKU scored 28 points in the first quarter, led 41-0 at halftime and was up 48-0 before the Herd finally scored in the third quarter. Even that did not go well, as Amoreto Curraj had his third kick of the year blocked, this one by the Hilltopper’s Julien Lewis and returned for two points by cornerback Joe Brown to make the score 50-6. Curraj finished 4-of-11 on field goals, replacing fellow redshirt junior Nick Smith — 18-of-25 last year.

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Garet Morrell started his second game of the year when Chase Litton had to shut down earlier in the week with a shoulder injury. He passed for 143 yards and one touchdown on the night, here being protected by MU running back Anthony Anderson (21). (Herd Insider photo by Greg Perry)

Holliday was a man of few words after the loss. “Obviously there’s not a whole lot to be said,” Holliday said. “They’re a good football team; we’re not a good football team right now. We did not meet the standards and expectations that should be met around here this year. We’ll go back to work … and make sure this never happens again.”

On Senior Night, only seven of the Herd’s 13 seniors were in the starting lineup. Marshall also started 11 new starters instead of the 22 who started the first game of the against Morgan State. Still, Holliday was not looking for any excuses for his team’s struggles in the 2016 season.

But had Holliday ever been part of a season with so many injuries to deal with? “No. Not in 35-40 years have I ever dealt with so many,” Holliday said. “But you know what, it’s not an excuse in any way, shape, or form. But to answer the question, no. I don’t know how many guys we had out, we’ll take a look at that too and look at why.”

Just before the game, it was announced that starting sophomore quarterback Chase Litton would not start, along with redshirt sophomore defensive end Ryan Bee — players who had 21 and 18 starts, respectively. “He was hurt,” Holliday said of Litton. “Developed a shoulder issue that kept him from being able to throw the ball.” Litton was not at the field, or at least not where the media could find him, while Bee was on the sidelines. Hyleck Foster (8 starts), the junior running back was also not on the sidelines apparently, while sophomore running back Keion Davis (4 starts) was on the sideline in jersey and street clothes.

Bee had a lot of company there, as starting redshirt freshman center Levi Brown (11 starts), starting senior right guard Michael Selby (33 starts) and starting senior right tackle Clint Van Horn (team high 34 starts) were also not dressed out on the sidelines. Also out were senior tight end Emanuel Byrd (one start) and redshirt sophomore backup tight end Kaleb Harris (no starts).

Tackle AJ Addison (8 starts as tackle) wore 92 for the second game in a row as a blocking tight end for the Herd opposite junior Ryan Yurachek (24 starts). Marshall’s only semi-healthy tight end played with a brace on his injured knee and scored the Herd’s only touchdown on a four-yard pass from true freshman quarterback Garet Morrell.

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Anthony Wales stretches for the goalline on the tackle by the Herd’s Kendall Gant, giving Wales a 19-yard touchdown run and a 16-yard reception for touchdown in the first quarter of WKU’s 60-6 win. (Herd Insider photo by Greg Perry)

Morrell had two starts this season — versus the ranked Louisville team that beat Marshall 59-28 and tonight against the defending C-USA champs from WKU. Beating the Hilltoppers with all those missing players would have been tough from the get go, but with the freshman quarterback not getting the nod at practice Wednesday or Thursday, it was a non-start right from the get-go.

Morrell had a decent night passing, hitting 19-of-35 for 143 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. He was sacked twice, but ended up with 15 yards on nine rushes in the game, including a long run of 15 yards.

“We had some momentum going and we knew we had to punch that one in,” Morrell said of the touchdown drive, consuming 16 plays, 82 yards and nearly nine minutes. “There was no option. I had to roll out and had either a defensive back or a linebacker coming straight at my face, my running back made a block for me, and I have faith in [Yurachek] to make that play. I had to get it to him and then it was his time to shine.”

But he was going against Mike White of WKU, who added to a year where entering the Marshall game he had thrown for over 3,300 yards, 24 touchdowns and only five interceptions. White burned the Herd with an efficient 16-of-27 passing for 233 yards and three touchdowns, with no sacks and no picks.

Add a rushing game that again saw two running backs rush for over 100 yards against the Herd, as Anthony Wales hit for 110 yards and two touchdowns (a 19-yard score as well as a 1-yard dive for TD) while freshman Quinton Baker — who originally committed to Kentucky, then flipped to Marshall and finally flipped to WKU at the ‘Toppers 2015’s game against Marshall in Bowling Green, Ky. — rushed for 104 yards and a four-yard touchdown in the middle of the fourth quarter.

While WKU piled up 462 yards of offense on the Herd — 229 rushing and 233 passing — Marshall could answer with 143 yards passing and only 87 yards rushing for 230 yards of total offense. Marshall’s leading receiver was sophomore Anthony Anderson, who at running back and as the signal caller in the “Wildcat” formation rushed 18 times for only 33 yards. Redshirt junior Tony Pittman rushed for 31 yards on just 10 carries (3.1 ypr) and redshirt freshman Delvin Weems had two carries for eight yards.

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Anthony Anderson runs out of the “Wildcat” formation, running into WKU linebacker TJ McCollum as (58) Jordan Dowrey looks to block the Hilltopper. (Herd Insider photo by Greg Perry)

Receiving wise, Deon-Tay McManus continued his good play as the redshirt junior led the Herd and all players with seven catches, for 45 yards, and led the Herd for the second game in a row in receiving after having 10 for 150 last week in the loss at FIU. Redshirt sophomore wide out Michael Clark had three catches for 42 yards, senior slot Josh Knight had three catches for 16 yards and senior Justin Hunt had two for 22 yards. Anderson (1-for-11), Yurachek (1-for-4, TD), Pittman (1-for-3) and Donquell “Gator” Green (1-for-0) had one catch each.

Yurachek’s touchdown catch, which extended his streak of consecutive games with a reception to 29 games, was his only one. He lamented the loss for the 13 seniors on the team. “I feel for those guys,” Yurachek said. “It stinks for those guys … to work their tails off. That’s not how anybody should go out. I feel awful for those guys.”

WKU was led in receiving by Taywan Taylor with five catches for 52 yards. Taylor had one touchdown of 21 yards for the offense’s first score after the kick return touchdown. Nicholas Norris had three catches for 79 yards and a 25-yard touchdown to open the second quarter for the ‘Toppers, Lucky Jackson had three catches for 27 yards and Wales caught two as a running back for 37 yards, including a 16-yard touchdown for WKU’s 27 point of the first quarter.

Also for WKU, Skyler Simcox hit three field goals of 41, then 47 and finally from 22 yards, and had 16 points in the game with his seven extra-points. Towner, who scored on that opening kickoff, also had a 32-yard punt return and a four-yard catch for 129 yards in all-purpose offense while Wales led with 147 all-purpose on rushing and receiving.

On the defensive side, redshirt junior corner Rodney Allen led Marshall with 11 tackles with a pass broken up — finishing with 76 tackles on the season and leading the Herd with 12 passes broken up —  while senior safety Corey Neely ended a great season statistically, adding nine tackles to finish the year leading the Herd with 79 stops on the year.

“We fought until the very end, but we just weren’t clicking and that made it hard for us to play together. They beat us out in the first quarter and that made it really hard for us,” Neely said. “We just tried to bounce back and come together, but it wasn’t clicking on offense tonight.

“I just know that I worked hard to get in the position that I’m in now. I just have to try and do what’s best for me in the future.”

Junior safety Kendall Gant had 7 tackles to finish with 77 stops on the year. Frosh corner Chris Jackson had four tackles and three passes broken up, while senior Joe Massaquoi had the Herd’s only tackle for loss on the three WKU quarterbacks and freshman tackle Channing Hames had three quarterback pressures to lead MU.

WKU’s Keith Brown led all tacklers with 14 tackles, and led all players with 2.5 tackles for a minus-7 yards. The Hilltoppers had two sacks (Brown had one of those, for minus-4) and 9.0 tackles for loss. Joe Brown had a 51-yard interception return, and Tacorian Darden had the other pick.

While WKU is looking forward to the C-USA Championship against West Division champ Louisiana Tech next Saturday, the Herd began looking forward to righting the ship and think about playing for a championship in 2017, and Yurachek is sure Marshall can turn this season right around. It is time to start the off-season, and getting better for next year starts tomorrow.

“We’re going to have a meeting (Sunday) and get back to work on Monday and make sure it doesn’t happen in 2017,” Yurachek said. “We lost confidence this year for whatever reason. Things never went our way. Some games we didn’t deserve to win, some games we shot ourselves in the foot, some games we just didn’t get that bounce. Things didn’t go our way. It wasn’t our year. It’s our fault.”

Coach Holliday has the same agenda for his team as his senior-to-be tight end. “You look at everything. You look at all aspects from personnel, to coaching, to everything,” Holliday said. “The way we handle everything, we have to evaluate everything. We have to look at what our issues are and get them fixed.

“I think we have a lot of pieces in place personnel wise. Number one we have to get the guys back that we have, and number two the guys that we have on campus, we have some guys that can get things squared away; and it will be.”

THUNDER NOTES

  • Marshall game captains for WKU, as selected by Doc Holliday and staff, are four of the team’s senior: receiver Josh Knight, receiver Justin Hunt, linebacker Devontre’a Tyler and defensive end Gary Thompson.
  • Saturday’s game was televised by ESPNU, the first time the network has visited Joan C. Edwards Stadium since Oct. 13, 2010 when the Thundering Herd hosted UCF. The game was broadcast by two former members of the Herd in play-by-play man Bill Roth — who was the “Voice of the Herd” in 1989 — and former Herd quarterback John Gregory did color, playing for the Herd from 1985-89, including winning the first SoCon title in 1988 and advancing the Herd to its first I-AA Championship Game in 1987.
  • Sophomore wide receiver Donquell “Gator” Green and redshirt freshman offensive lineman Alex Locklear received their first career starts. Green lined up in the backfield and motioned to the left side of the field for a reception on the game’s first play. Locklear started at right guard.
  • Junior tight end Ryan Yurachek caught a 4-yard touchdown pass from Garet Morrell in the third quarter. The catch extended Yurachek’s streak of consecutive games with a reception to 29 games. Morrell got his second start of the year, also staring the Louisville game when Chase Litton got a concussion against Akron.
  • MU sophomore quarterback Chase Litton, who missed Saturday’s game against WKU with shoulder issues, finished the season with 2,612 passing yards and 24 touchdowns, both improvements from his rookie season. Litton is No. 10 on the MU’s all-time list for completions (461), No. 7 in passing touchdowns (47) and No. 6 in completion percentage (61.1), and has 21 starts in two years in the program.
  • Senior slot Josh Knight caught three passes Saturday and finishes as the team leader with 62. Knight was edged out for the team lead in receiving yards by sophomore Michael Clark, whose 42 yards Saturday night gave him 632 for the season. Knight’s 16 yards in the finale gave him 631 yards on the season. Knight, Clark, Yurachek and senior Justin Hunt finish in a four-way tie for the team lead in receiving touchdowns with five.
  • Senior safety Corey Neely finished as the team leader in tackles with 79 this season. He was followed by fellow safety Kendall Gant (77) and cornerback Rodney Allen (76), who led the Herd with 12 passes broken up and with four forced fumbles.
  • Redshirt freshman end Ty Tyler led the Herd with two fumble recoveries on the year. Redshirt sophomore tackle Jason Smith and true frosh linebacker Omari Cobb each blocked a kick for the Herd, and since taking over in 2010, Doc Holliday’s players have blocked 26 kicks in seven seasons. The Herd has blocked at least one kick every year since 2004.
  • Neely, Allen, frosh Chris Jackson and graduate transfer from Michigan Terry Richardson each had two interceptions to tie for the Herd lead in picks. Allen and Jackson return in 2017 at corner.
  • Sophomore linebacker Frankie Hernandez finished as the team leader in tackles for a loss with 8.5, of which 5.5 of those came in the final five games of the season.
  • Senior defensive end Gary Thompson paced the team in sacks in 2016 with five, which pushed his career total to 19. Thompson leaves Marshall No. 9 on the program’s all-time sack list.
  • WKU‘s 60-6 win at Marshall on Saturday night meant that the Hilltoppers had repeated as East Division Champions and will host the 2016 Dynacraft Conference USA Football Championship Game on Saturday, December 3.  Louisiana Tech (8-4, 6-2 in C-USA) punched its ticket as West Division Champion back on November 12. The C-USA Championship Game will be televised live on ESPN, beginning at Noon EST.  This will be the first time in league history that the game will be hosted by the same school in consecutive seasons.

About Woody Woodrum

Senior Editor and columnist/writer for Herd Insider since 2003, with Kindred Communications on radio for Marshall football/men's basketball pregame and postgame shows since 1996 and with First Sentry Bank Sportsline (Also Scott on Sports, Sideline Sports and Herd Insider Sportsline) since 1997. Married to Liz (12-22-1990) and one son, Tre' (11-7-1997). National Sportswriters & Sportscasters West Virginia Broadcaster of the Year winner for radio, 2000; won W.Va. Broadcasters Best Talk Show in 2013 with co-host Paul Swann and W.Va. Broadcasters Best Play-by-Play in 2015 with Jason Toy (Huntington at South Charleston, state AAA semifinals). Member of (College) Football Writers Association of America, (College) Basketball Writers Association of America and National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association. Color commentator for Marshall football (1999-2000), for Marshall basketball (2004-2016) and Marshall baseball (2004-2016). Color for high school football at Spring Valley (1999-2008), Cabell Midland (2009-2012) and Huntington (W.Va.) High School (2013-2016).

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