Oct. 21, 2017
By Chuck McGill
MURFREESBORO, Tenn. - As Chase Litton stood at the 5-yard line and watched one of his running backs surge into the end zone for a fourth quarter touchdown, he knew he was likely witnessing the end of a personal passing streak.
The 6-foot-6, 232-pound junior quarterback for Marshall had only one reaction to that realization, and an example of why the Thundering Herd is 6-1 overall and 3-0 in Conference USA play as the team enters the final weekend of football in October.
Litton signaled touchdown Ã¢â'¬Â¦ and then congratulated his teammates and the run by freshman running back Tyler King in the fourth quarter of Marshall's 38-10 win at Middle Tennessee on Friday night in front of an ESPN nationally televised audience.
As Litton bounced into the locker room after the game, he used his hands to flash six fingers in the air - the number of wins Marshall has this season.
"Forget the streak," he said.
Litton entered Friday's game with at least one touchdown pass in 27 consecutive games, the second-longest active streak in major college football and on course to target an NCAA record held by MU QB great Rakeem Cato. Instead, Litton continued another streak - 136 consecutive passes without an interception, which ties Cato for the longest streak since Doc Holliday took over as head coach - and led the offense to a turnover-free game on the road.
Litton, who watched most of the fourth quarter from the sidelines as backup Jackson White took snaps, finished 16 of 24 passing for 168 yards, no touchdowns and no interceptions. He has a four-game streak without an interception, the first time any quarterback has done that since Holliday was named the coach.
The QB watched as his running backs scored four touchdowns, a first for the offense since Nov. 8, 2014 at Southern Mississippi, a span of 37 games. King scored twice, including the aforementioned punctuation point with 12:47 left of the fourth quarter, and Keion Davis added another two scores. The Herd defense added another touchdown, the fifth non-offensive score by Marshall in seven games this season.
"We were joking about it on the sidelines," Yurachek said. "Nobody cares who scores, nobody cares if the offense wins the game or the defense wins the game. Nobody cares. What we cared about was we just beat a team on the road in our conference by 28 points. That's what matters."
Yurachek and Litton shared some sideline laughs because Litton targeted Yurachek on the play before King plunged in from the 1 to reach the final score. Litton zipped a pass to his left to a wide open Yurachek, who tried to outrun a defender to the pylon but was shoved out of bounds at the 1-yard line. If Yurachek had made it, the touchdown pass streak would have survived another week.
"I told him that he's slow," Litton said. "Before the play I told him that he better get in the end zone. We were laughing about it. The scoreboard says it all. We won the game and I'll take the win over that streak any day of the week.
"The coaches gave me chances. I missed a corner route to Marcel (Williams). I should have put it on him rather than a spot and assumed that's where he's going to be."
The selfless mindset is a major reason why Marshall will take a five-game winning streak into next Saturday's home game against Florida International. The Herd struck near-perfect balance with 198 rushing yards and 168 passing yards, did not turn the ball over, held Middle Tennessee to 53 rushing yards on 31 carries (1.7 yards per attempt) and gained yet another non-offensive TD in a four-touchdown win on the road.
The 28-point margin of victory is Marshall's sixth-largest ever in a Conference USA road game. Those are the numbers on which Litton was fixated in the wake of a victory that kept he and his teammates undefeated in league play and in control of their destiny in pursuit of a conference title.
"We can talk about that touchdown streak all we want," Litton said, "but the only streak that matters is still alive.
"That's five straight wins."