Troy Trips Herd At Home, 17-15

Marshall had not lost a home opener in 13 tries in the 'new' stadium. In fact, the Herd had not lost a home opener of any kind since dropping a 27-3 decision to the Redbirds of Illinois State in 1983. Troy University handed The Herd its first home opener loss on a steamy Saturday afternoon by a 17-15 score.

Marshall was stymied all night on offense, putting up only 177 yards of total offense. The Herd had the lowest rushing yardage since the stadium opened in 1991 with 34 carries for only 25 net yards. Much of the lost yardage came from a stadium record eight sacks by the Troy defense, dumping Stan Hill for minus 43 yards in losses.

"We haven't been held to 177 yards in a half, much less a game," summed up Marshall coach Bob Pruett. "That sort of tells the story."

Chris Royal returned this interception in the second quarter.

Marshall's previous low at the stadium was 46 yards in 18 carries in the 2002 Mid-American Conference championship game against Toledo, a game the Herd won. It is the lowest Marshall total since 1990, when Marshall rushed 28 times for 11 yards at East Tennessee State in a loss in the "Mini Dome" in Johnson City, Tennessee.

"We didn't come ready to play today," added Marshall quarterback Stan Hill. "We really realized tonight that I guess we're not as good as we thought we were. We've got a real good football team, but we're not going to beat anybody on our schedule if we play the way we did tonight. We've got to play better."

The Troy defense, which has held the Herd under 100 yards rushing three games in a row (98 yards in 2003; 90 yards in 2002), also limited Hill to only 50 percent passing, hitting 14-of-28, with one interception for 152 yards. One of four NFL prospects on the Trojan defense who has a similar job for the last three weeks at Troy is Demarcus Ware. He was a nearly unstoppable force for TU against Marshall's frequently shuffled offensive line, which was trying to replace three starters from 2003. Ware was the co-leader in tackles for the Trojans with seven tackles, four solo; he set a personal best with 4.5 tackles-for-loss, costing MU 29 yards, and became the all-time leader in tackles-for-loss at Troy with 44.5 in his career; forced two fumbles, one of which set up Troy's winning touchdown from the MU 11-yard line; broke up a pass; and recorded three sacks for minus 25 yards. Troy recorded 15.5 tackles-for-loss in addition to the eight sacks.

Marshall receiver Josh Davis scored on this 10-yard TD pass from Stan Hill.

"Troy State is a great football program that came ready to play," added MU's Nate Griffin. "We didn't do a good job of executing what we were coached to do. It'll get fixed."

Not that Marshall's defense was not equally as stout on the night. The Herd "D" gave up only one sustained drive for a score, as offensive turnovers set up the short touchdown and a field goal. This despite the suspension of three defensive linemen for the game and starting defensive end Jon Goddard missing the first half. Goddard was a man on a mission in the second half, recording the first three tackles of the half and 10 for the game. He also had one tackle-for-loss and forced a fumble. Linebacker Kevin Atkins led the Herd with 11 tackles and cornerback Roberto Terrell also had 10 tackles (team leading five solos) and broke up one pass. Dionte Wilson had nine tackles and a tackle-for-loss while safety Curtis Keyes, who leveled a number of Trojans with some of the game's biggest hits, had four solos and eight tackles, broke up a pass and recorded a tackle-for-loss. Marshall recorded seven tackles for loss against the Trojans.

"If you look at it, offensively, neither team played good ball," Marshall coach Pruett added. "Defensively, we played efficient."

Troy quarterback Aaron Leak also only hit 50 percent of his passes against the MU defense, with 13-of-26 passing, with one interception, for 196 yards. He was sacked twice, by Dennis Thorton and Marcus Hairston. Marshall's Chris Royal grabbed interceptions against both Leak, returning the pick for 42 yards to set up a Herd field goal, and also picked off freshman QB D.T. McDowell on his only passing attempt. Troy rushed for over 250 yards in the 2003 win in Alabama, but Marshall held the Trojans to 65 yards on 42 carries, only 1.5 yards per rush.Jermaine Richardson had 46 yards on 16 tries and DeWhitt Betterson, who had 114 yards last year, rushed for only 26 yards on 15 carries agains the MU defense.

Ian O'Connor was a bright spot on the night for Marshall, hitting three-for-three on his first-ever field goals at Marshall. He was good from 32, 30 and 20 yards and kicked deep into the end zone on a number of kickoffs. Freshman Ahmad Bradshaw gained 10 yards on his first-ever MU rush and ended up with four carries for 12 yards, caught two passes, returned a punt for nine yards and one kickoff for a MU-best 20 yards. Other freshmen who had a good night were Emanuel Spann, who made his first catch for three yards, and Shawn Lauzon, who caught his first MU pass for 12 yards. Roger Garrett got his first start at d-tackle for the Herd and had three tackles and 0.5 tackles-for-loss. Floyd Wright played in his first MU game and had a tackle and one tackle-for-loss. Brad Bates, a senior who returned from a 2003 suspension from the Herd squad, blocked a punt to set up the Herd's lone touchdown and made a catch on a "tip drill," end-of-the-game "Hail Mary," thrown by Hill, for 49 yards as the clock ran out.

"We're going to have to find a way to protect our passer if we're going to do anything at all," summed up Pruett. "We had a poor offensive effort, couldn't protect Stan [Hill]. It's a young offensive line, and we have a lot to look at on film."

Senior wideout Josh Davis moved up the receiving charts in both the MU and MAC books with six catches for 79 yards and Marshall's only touchdown on the night. He passes Tim Martin (1993-96) for third all-time in receptions at Marshall and now has 226, 23 behind Mike Barber, who had 249 at MU for second place from 1985-88. Current Denver Broncos receiver Darius Watts leads all-time at MU with 272 catches.

Davis also passes 3,000 yards receiving and needs 413 yards to catch the Minnesota Vikings Randy Moss (1996-97) for third in career yards receiving at MU. He passed both Justin McCareins of Northern Illinois and Reggie Allen of Central Michigan and moves into fourth in the MAC in yards receiving in a career. He needs 459 yards to catch Eugene Baker, "the touchdown maker," who played at Kent State last in 1998, for third and less than 1,000 yards to pass Watts for first. Earl Charles started the 2004 campaign with 56 tough rushing yards to pace the Herd.

Out of the pan and into the fire might best describe the coming week for the Herd. Marshall must rebound from the tough loss and prepare for a first-ever trip to Ohio Stadium in Columbus, Ohio, for a meeting with the number nine-ranked Buckeyes of Ohio State. OSU started the season at home today with a 27-6 win over the Bearcats of Cincinnati, coached by former Buckeye defensive coordinator Mark Dantonio. Marshall appeared to have injuries to both Davis and Wilson following the game, but their conditions are unknown at this time. Game time is 3:30 next Saturday and the game will be an ABC Sports Regional television broadcast, going to the Northeast and Midwestern US, seen in the Huntington-Charleston on WCHS TV-8, and heard on the Thundering Herd/ISP Sports Radio Network, locally on 930-AM, WRVC, and 93.7, "The Dawg," in Huntington.

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