HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — For a blackout, things ended up awfully bright for the Thundering Herd.
The Marshall football team ran for 192 yards, forced two turnovers and limited visiting Louisiana Tech to just three points over the final three quarters of regulation Friday night during an impressive 31-10 Conference USA victory at Joan C. Edwards Stadium.
The Thundering Herd (7-3, 5-1 CUSA East) moved into a first place tie with Florida Atlantic in the East Division standings while also handing the Bulldogs (8-2, 5-1 CUSA West) their only league loss thus far this fall.
The potential Conference USA championship matchup ended up falling on Marshall’s annual 75-game, a tribute weekend that marks the anniversary of the plane crash that killed 75 members of the program and nearly ended MU football back in 1970.
With fans encouraged to wear black as the Herd broke out their traditional black uniform tops for this contest, it appeared early on that the LTU was up for the challenge.
The Red and Blue struck first as Justin Henderson capped the third offensive drive of regulation with a 5-yard touchdown run, ending an 8-play, 55-yard drive that resulted in a 7-0 lead with 9:07 left in the opening canto.
The hosts answered with a 9-play, 60-yard drive that ended with Justin Rohrwasser missing a 31-yard field goal wide to the right, but Bailey Hale returned the favor three drives later after missing from 42 yards out early in the second frame — leaving the contest at 7-0.
Rohrwasser redeemed himself by connecting on a 44-yarder with 6:58 left in the half, trimming the deficit down to 7-3.
The Herd then secured a permanent lead on their next drive after covering 52 yards in three plays, with Willie Johnson hauling in an 18-yard corner lob pass from Isaiah Green at the 4:25 mark for a 10-7 edge.
Both teams traded punts and Louisiana Tech was on its way to a third straight punt, but a bad snap resulted in a 12-yard loss on fourth-and-5 — giving Marshall possession at the LTU 1-yard line.
Brenden Knox covered that single yard on the second play of that next drive, allowing MU to secure a 17-7 advantage with 40 seconds left in the half.
The Herd committed the first turnover of the game after using a 10-play drive to start the second half, then the Bulldogs countered by covering 65 yards in 14 plays before settling for a Hale 38-yard field goal for a 17-10 contest with 4:04 left in the third.
The Green and White, however, started putting the outcome away from there as the hosts covered 75 yards in eight plays. Green rumbled 17 yards and shook off a pair of tacklers to reach the end zone with 33 seconds left in the third period for a 24-10 MU lead.
Tavante Beckett recovered a fumble on Louisiana Tech’s next drive, then Knox capped an 8-play, 40-yard drive with a 4-yard scamper at the 6:25 mark of the fourth — extending the lead out to 31-10.
Steven Gilmore came up with an interception on the Bulldogs’ final offensive drive, and the hosts simply ran off the final 3:32 of regulation by picking up a pair of first downs before a kneel down wrapped up the Herd’s fifth consecutive triumph.
It was just the third-ever meeting between the two programs, including the first since the teams met in the 2014 CUSA Championship won by MU. The Herd now leads the series by a 2-1 count.
Marshall claimed a 22-18 advantage in first downs and outgained the guests by a 405-261 overall margin, which included a sizable 192-67 edge on the ground. The hosts were plus-1 in turnover differential and accounted for seven of the 10 points scored off of takeaways.
Knox led Marshall with 113 rushing yards and two scores on 25 carries, followed by Sheldon Evans with 38 yards on six attempts.
Green ran for 24 yards and a score on nine totes while also completing 14-of-26 passes for 213 yards, including a touchdown and an interception.
Obi Obialo made his long-awaited season debut by hauling in a team-high eight catches for 146 yards.
Beckett led the MU defense with 13 tackles, followed by Omari Cobb and Darius Hodge with nine and seven stops respectively. Fermin Silva also came away with the hosts’ lone sack of the night.
Henderson led LTU with 87 rushing yards on 21 carries, while Aaron Allen completed 19-of-32 passes for 159 yards. Smoke Harris led the wideouts with nine catches for 91 yards.
L’Jarius Sneed recorded 13 tackles to lead the Bulldog defense. Connor Taylor and Milton Williams were next with 10 stops apiece. Michael Sam came away with an interception in the third quarter.
Louisiana Tech entered Friday night’s matchup averaging 38.1 points per game offensively.
Marshall completed the road portion of its 2019 regular season on Saturday when it travels to Charlotte for a Conference USA East Division matchup at 3:30 p.m.
Bryan Walters can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2101.