And when the dust had settled, Marshall coach Mark Snyder found that his team had inched closer to playing an all-around solid game with few mistakes. Snyder received good effort on all fronts —offense, defense and special teams— in the 20-19 win over UAB, and the mistakes were few and far between.
"Obviously, we didn't play the perfect game," Snyder added. "Did we bring all three phases together? No. But we brought enough together to get a 'w' in Conference USA and we're excited about that.
Ahmad Bradshaw ran upfield as UAB's Will Dunbar pursued.
The effort made up for a not-so-great second half against #3 Virginia Tech the weekend prior. Against UAB, however, Marshall never made a game-threatening mistake, and the result was a much-needed win over the Blazers in the up-for-grabs C-USA East division battle.
"Another exciting night in Conference USA football," MU coach Snyder quipped.
Neither team scored in the first quarter, but Marshall drew first blood with 14:15 left in the second quarter. Receiver Marcus Fitzgerald was spotted in the back of the end zone by QB Bernie Morris, and Morris connected with Fitzgerald for a 5-yard score. The Blazers answered on the very next possession, with QB Darrell Hackney moving UAB 49 yards in 11 plays to set up a 33-yard field goal by Parker Mullins.
Chris Royal intercepted UAB quarterback Darrell Hackney in the second quarter.
The final drives of the half ended in interceptions for both teams. Marshall's Chris Royal picked off UAB's Hackney with 2:52 left in the half. On the following MU possession, UAB returned the favor when Julius Wainwright stepped in front of a Bernie Morris pass in the end zone, returning it out to the 28 yard line.
"We had our one mistake, but we just kept fighting," Bernie Morris said.
"Any time you have a quarterback that does the things Hackney does, we're very excited to get out of here with a win," Mark Snyder added of UAB's Hackney.
UAB's Corey White was stopped by MU's Willie Smith and Dennis Thornton.
The second half was another see-saw affair in terms of scoring, this time with UAB striking first. In just 6 plays, the Blazers moved 80 yards downfield, rewarded with a 19-yard scoring pass from Hackney to Lance Rhodes with 13:22 left in the third quarter.
Marshall's special teams got in on the action just five minutes later. Ivan Clark blocked a punt by UAB's Mullins with 8:52 left in the third quarter, and Morris and the Marshall offense needed just two plays to get the ball in the end zone. Ahmad Bradshaw ran in from 12 yards out and diving over the goal line, and the score gave Marshall a 14-10 lead.
"I think we made some strides today in special teams," Snyder said. "It helped us today."
UAB would cut the lead to just one point on another field goal by Mullins with 14:12 remaining in the fourth quarter, a 21-yarder. The Blazers then jumped in the lead at 19-14 when Corey White took the short handoff from Hackney and ran in from two yards out. However, the Blazers decided to run a two-point conversion, but Hackney's pass was ruled incomplete after lengthy review by the C-USA officials.
Marshall QB Bernie Morris put a finger in the air as he crossed the goal line on his 40-yard game-winning touchdown run against UAB.
Marshall's defense held off UAB on another drive late in the game, and the Blazers' Mullins muffed a punt for just 10 yards, giving Marshall possession on the UAB 40 yard line.
Enter Bernie Morris, stage left.
Marshall's young quarterback had already led the team on a game-winning drive two weeks ago against SMU. Bernie Morris began and ended the ensuing drive against UAB in just one play. Morris ran around tight end on the option play, and when the defensive end bit on the fake pitch, Morris cut upfield and ran into the end zone for the game-winning score with 6:32 left.
"Coach told me to give them a little shoulder fake, and I did," Bernie Morris said of the game-winning run. "Once I gave him the fake, it opened up a seam and I just took off running."
"Bernie was a little off in the throwing game, but once again he created momentum and points with his feet," MU coach Snyder added. "They [UAB] were a big blitz team, and we wanted to bust it with the option. It's hard to stop the option when you're blitzing."
Both teams ended up punting on subsequent drives. UAB's Hackney began the Blazers' final drive with just 1:42 left but no time outs at his disposal. Despite that handicap, Hackney moved UAB 50 yards in that 1:42. Kicker Parker Mullins put the potential game-winning field goal up in the air from 51 yards out, but it sailed wide as time expired on the scoreboard.
UAB kicker Parker Mullins missed this field goal on the last play of the game, sealing Marshall's 20-19 win over UAB.
The 20-19 win bumped Marshall to a 3-3 overall record and 2-1 in C-USA. UAB dropped to 3-3 and 1-2, respectively with the loss.
Marshall managed just 251 yards total offense while giving up 432 to UAB. MU's Morris threw for just 99 yards (14-of-28), while the Marshall ground game rushed for 152 yards, led by Ahmad Bradshaw's 72 yards on 17 carries.
Quarterback Bernie Morris summed the UAB win in appropriate fashion, heading into the UTEP game next week.
"We're not putting as many stats on the board as we should," Morris acknowledged. Then, he paused and added, "Sooner or later, we're going to have those games where we throw for 300 yards."