Tennessee Tops Marshall 33-7

The Marshall Thundering Herd had better offense, good punting and good defense, at times, versus No. 15 Tennessee. But moral victories are only for fans. The Herd could only look forward to a new start in 2006 in 10 days in Conference USA when UCF comes to Huntington on October 4. The Vols get the win over Marshall, 33-7, in a contest delayed by lightning and featuring hard hits and big plays.

The Thundering Herd, now 1-3 on the season with three losses to three BCS teams, started the second half with two drives into Tennessee territory, but only had a missed field goal by Anthony Binswanger, on another really poor kick like his effort against Hofstra, and a punt inside the 20-yard line by Ian O'Connor to show for their efforts. Marshall would generate only one long drive for a score, coming in the second quarter, but the Herd drove the ball throughout the second half, but could not cash in. The defense continued to sparkle until late in the game, as Albert McClellan sacked Erik Ainge a couple of times in the game. UT only had the ball two minutes, 25-seconds of the third quarter, gaining just two first downs.

Marshall ended the game with 236 yards of total offense, as Bernard Morris hit for 8-of-14 passes, with one interception, for 110 yards. Ahmad Bradshaw ran 24 times for 72 yards, while Morris added 32 yards and Chubb Small had nine carries for 44 yards. Tennessee had 434 yards of offense, but 175 of that total came against a tiring MU defense in the fourth quarter and 89 yards of that total was on one play.

MU mixed the run and pass again in the third quarter, trying to get back into the 16-7 contest. The Herd moved to mid-field in another long drive, however a Morris fumble on an option, as the pitch was pitched by the Herd QB into the back of fullback Matt Parkhurst, and then kicked up into the air. It was recovered by Demetrice Morley for Tennessee and gave UT the ball back at its own 39-yard line. A 13-yard pass play ended the third quarter with UT still holding a 16-7 lead.

Ahmad Bradshaw carried the ball 24 times for only 72 yards against Tennessee. photos by Greg Perry/Herd Insider

Matt Couch started the fourth quarter with a bang for the Herd, picking off Ainge and returning the ball to the UT 44-yard line. MU could not move the ball, on two runs and a pass for Hiram Moore, and O'Connor pinned the Vols once again inside the 20-yard line as Dennis Thornton caught the ball at the 11, on a great pooch punt of 28 yards.

On the very next play, UT tailback LaMarcus Coker took an inside handoff and cut to the Tennessee sidelines and ran 89 yards for a 23-7 Vols lead. It was the longest run at UT since Kelsey Finch went 99 yards versus Florida in 1977, and is the third-longest scoring run in Tennessee history. With 12:36 to play, Marshall was once again down in the fourth quarter by 23-7 to a BCS team for the second week in a row, on a big play, after the defense had played so well all day. Kansas State hit for a fourth quarter touchdown to beat the Herd last week by the same score, 23-7. Up until that point, MU had limited UT to just 36 yards rushing, although the Vols ended the game with 176 on the ground with 140 in the final quarter.

Will Albin hauled in this short pass from QB Bernard Morris as UT's Jonathan Hefney closed in.

Wilhoit added a 49-yard field goal attempt to give the Vols a 26-7 lead in the contest with 5:24 to play in the game. A sellout crowd announced at over 104,000, but somewhat less actually in attendance on a rainy, stormy day, was encouraged the Vols put the game away in the fourth period after struggling against the Herd in the second and third quarters. David Yancy added a touchdown with :23 to play to make the final 33-7.

To start the game, Marshall and Tennessee had a 55 minute delay due to lightning. Tennessee drove the ball down the field, but missed a 42-yard field goal by Wilhoit to start the contest. Marshall has been victimized by slow starts, but had this slow start forced on them by storms in the Knoxville area that have dumped 3-to-5 inches of rain in the area Then center Doug Legursky snapped the first MU snap past Bernard Morris and Morris fell on the ball back at the three-yard line. After a one-yard loss on second and 32 by Ahmad Bradshaw, Morris was sacked in the end zone for a safety by Xavier Mitchell and Matt McGlothlin for a 2-0 Tennessee lead in the first quarter.

Marshall DB Curtis Keyes pulled down Tennessee tailback Montario Hardesty with one hand.

Erik Ainge was very effective in the first drive for the Volunteers and picked up where he left off after the Ian O'Connor free kick was returned by Johnathan Hefney 17 yards to the Vols 28-yard line. UT, however, continued to have rush problems, carrying for four times for six yards to start the game. Ainge hit Jason Swain on a 47-yard touchdown pass on third-and-one, getting behind the entire MU secondary and cruising to the end zone. The Wilhoit extra-point gave UT a 9-0 lead. Ainge started out 10-for-12 for 122 yards and one touchdown for the game.

Morris answered the Tennessee touchdown with the Herd's long play of the season, finding Hiram Moore for 49 yards on a pretty pass play. But two penalties on Wesley Jones (holding and illegal procedure), plus tackles for loss on Morris and Bradshaw forced the Herd to punt from the 44-yard line. O'Connor had another good kick, pinning UT at its own 10-yard line and the first quarter ended with Tennessee ahead 9-0 and facing second-and-four after a six-yard run by LaMarcus Coker to end the period.

Marshall has now been out-scored 44-to-7 in the first quarter through four games. Marshall was out-rushed 12 yards for UT to minus-23 for the Herd and total offense in the quarter was 134 to 26, with five first downs to one for MU. The Herd defense, however, stopped the Vols once again as J.J. Johnson knocked down his second pass to end a UT drive. The Britton Colquitt punt hit at the 15 and rolled dead at the Herd's eight-yard line for the Herd's third series of the game.

Marshall's Shavar Greer applied pressure to UT quarterback Erik Ainge in the first half.

The Herd finally got the running game in gear, picking up a first down plus 15 more yards on a late hit on Morris. Then Morris put a move on the UT offense to pick up 22 yards to move the Herd down to the Tennessee 29-yard line. Morris was roughed again after hitting Cody Slate for a short five yard gain on third and nine. The roughing was called on Turk McBride. On first down, Morris picked up five, Bradshaw four and Morris then called his own number for the final yard and the Herd's first score. Anthony Binswanger's PAT made the score 9-7 with 5:28 to play in the half, and with that score the rain came back in sheets. Marshall drove 92 yards in 13 plays, taking 6:26 off the clock.

Tennessee caught a break when the Binswanger squib kick was caught by an up-man at the 32 and returned to the 36-yard line, plus five for MU being off-sides to the UT 41. Just when it appeared Marshall was going to force a punt, as an Ainge pass went off the hands of Bret Smith on third-and-long. But UT receiver Jayson Swain caught the tipped ball at the 20-yard line and on the next play, Hardesty broke a 20 yard run for a TD to put Tennessee up 16-7 with 2:52 to play.

MU had a quick three-and-out and O'Connor had his third good punt of the day. He handled a high snap, then kicked a 52-yard punt the Herd downed at the UT 16-yard line, his second punt downed inside the 20 in the game. But the Herd defense forced the Vols to punt with :41 left and Colquitt answered the O'Connor effort with a 63-yard punt that gave the Herd the ball at the eight-yard line with :29 second to play. Bradshaw picked up three yards and the first half ended Tennessee 16, Marshall 7.

At the half, Marshall had rushed the ball for 54 yards, but the team loss of minus-22 yards cut that to 32 yards on 20 attempts in the official stats. Tennessee had 33 plays for 236 yards of offense, with Ainge hitting 14-of-21 for 193 yards in the passing department. Morris was 3-for-5 for 62 yards in the first half, but the Herd only had 25 offensive plays for 94 total yards of offense.

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