Juwon Young
Rick Haye

Football

MCGILL: Defense Dominates on Senior Day

Marshall 23, UTSA 0

Box Score HUNTINGTON, W.Va. – The numbers are staggering.
 
Marshall held visiting UTSA to minus-26 rushing yards on Saturday night at Joan C. Edwards Stadium, a school record that was etched 19 years ago in the Motor City Bowl. Overall, the Roadrunners were seemingly parked on the shoulder of the highway with nowhere to go. UTSA gained 137 yards, the fewest allowed by a Herd defense since the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl nine years ago. The final score, decisive at 23-0, is the fifth shutout in nine seasons under Doc Holliday.
 
The players, on Senior Day, were more focused on improving to 7-3 overall and 5-2 in Conference USA play.
 
"We leave the numbers to you guys," Marshall senior linebacker Chase Hancock said. "We just go out there and play. We take great pride in making sure we stop the ball and are a dominant defense."
 
There was no doubt that Hancock, last season's Team MVP and one of the four captains on his final home game, and his defense were that. UTSA, which has not scored a touchdown against the Herd in their last eight quarters on the same field, only ran five plays on Marshall's side of the 50-yard line. Two of those – the final plays of the game – came after a Marshall punt was returned 25 yards to the MU 47. The offense had no part in getting the team on the good side of the 50, and never made it past the Marshall 45 the entire game.
 
"I thought the defense was sensational," Holliday said. "They just shut down that offensive team."
 
That includes five sacks totaling 39 yards, which flipped the Roadrunners' rushing total to minus-26 yards on 21 carries. The longest run was for 5 yards. Marshall, which allowed an average of 2.5 yards per play Saturday night, is the last remaining FBS team that has yet to allow a run of 30 yards or longer. UTSA never sniffed that kind of yardage on this night. Not even close.
 
"There's never been a team in Marshall history to do that," Holliday said of the new school record. "There's been some really good defensive football teams run through here. You do that as a defense, that's special."
 
UTSA was held to 10 first downs, the fewest by an MU opponent this season. The Roadrunners threw for 163 yards with a long of 20, but struggled to deal with Marshall's constant pressure.
 
"We knew they would be inexperienced so we were going to bring pressure," Marshall defensive coordinator Adam Fuller said. "Out of all personnel groups, we went more three-down this week than we had in other weeks, and that was designed. We brought legitimate pressure in it. We brought some corner fires. We knew we had to apply pressure. If they were going to get yards, they were going to be hard yards."
 
Junior linebacker Omari Cobb finished with two sacks, and senior end Juwon Young, junior end Ty Tyler and junior tackle Channing Hames each added another. The defense totaled nine tackles for a loss, five pass breakups and 16 quarterback hurries. Eleven different players were credited with a hurry.
 
"We have really good defensive coaches," Fuller said. "We have a great staff. We have players who listen to their coaches and they play really hard … You are confident putting more on their plates because they're eating it."
 
The defense was stellar from the start. UTSA managed 12 total yards in its first five possessions, and didn't cross midfield until there was 11 minutes and 36 seconds left of the second quarter. In seven true possessions – the Roadrunners fumbled on a kickoff return to set up Marshall's first touchdown – UTSA punted six times and had another drive end on downs.
 
Meanwhile, Marshall took advantage on offense. After settling for a field goal on its opening drive, offensive coordinator Tim Cramsey was aggressive after the Herd recovered a fumble on a kickoff return. Redshirt freshman quarterback Isaiah Green went deep for senior receiver Tyre Brady on the next play, a 37-yard touchdown connection in which Brady caught the pass in the end zone with several yards of breathing room from the nearest defender.
 
Green and Brady connected again late in the second quarter to set up another touchdown. Green found junior tight end Armani Levias for a 32-yard gain on the first play of the drive, and then hooked up with Brady for a 50-yard gain on the next play. Green tossed his second scoring pass to junior receiver Artie Henry from 8 yards out to give the Herd a 17-0 lead.
 
A field goal to end the half made it 20-0, Herd, at the break. UTSA entered the locker room with 57 total yards of offense – minus-16 on the ground – and three first downs against a Herd defense that has gotten stingier in the past few weeks. BYU set the previous low for rushing yards against Marshall with minus-16 in the 1999 bowl game.
 
Offensively, Green passed for a career-high 387 yards and two touchdowns on Saturday. Brady caught six passes a tied his season-best with 162 yards, while junior receiver Obi Obialo set a career-high with 103 receiving yards. Brady and Obialo are the first Herd receiving duo since 2014 (Davonte Allen and Tommy Shuler) with 100 receiving yards in the same game.
 
Chuck McGill is the Assistant Athletic Director for Fan/Donor Engagement and Communications at Marshall University and a six-time winner of the National Sports Media Association West Virginia Sportswriter of the Year award. In addition to HerdZone.com's Word on the Herd, McGill is the editor of Thundering Herd Illustrated, Marshall's official athletics publication. Follow him on Twitter (@chuckmcgill) and Instagram (wordontheherd).
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