Marshall-SMU Game Blog

Marshall led SMU 14-10 at the half in a very close game, both on the scoreboard and in the statistics. The teams both had 11 first downs and both were just short of 200 yards of offense. SMU took advantage of a quick turnover by MU to take a 17-14 third quarter lead in the game. That's where it stood heading to the fourth stanza, when the Herd finally caught a break on a touchdown for the lead.

To start the fourth, Morris drove the Herd for a go-ahead touchdown. Bradshaw had runs of seven, 26, three and one to help keep the ball moving. Morris found Spann for a big 10 yards, but then got some of the luck the herd has seemed to be missing this year. Morris threw to Slate from the 25-yard line, but the pass tipped off his hands. Fortunately, the ball went straight to Marcus Fitzgerald for a 25 yard touchdown and a 21-17 Herd lead with 12:03 to play.

SMU answered with a 11-play, 80 yard drive that resulted in another Willis touchdown pass to Reynaldo Pellerin to push the Mustangs back up by the score of 24-21. Chubb Small fumbled the resulting kickoff and SMU took over at the Marshall 22-yard line. Two plays later, Willis found a wide-open receiver in tight end Ryan Kennedy and suddenly a three-point Herd advantag had six minutes later become a 10-point lead for the Mustangs. It was Willis' fourth touchdown pass of the game and 16th of the season for the red-shirt freshman.

The Herd needed 10, but Morris overthrew Moore on the deep route on first down and Devin Lowery picked off his second pass of the game, and second of the season, and returned the ball to the Marshall 44-yard line. The Herd defense got a quick three-and-out, including a 12 yard loss on a sack of Willis by Albert McClellan. Morestead, however, responded with a 50 yard punt that pinned the Herd at the three. After picking up 12 to Matt Morris, Bernard Morris threw his third interception to Lowery and SMU ran out the clock for a 4-3 start, the best start since 1986 for the SMU program.

At the start of the second half, the teams traded figurative punches and short punts, but the Herd got the upper hand. O'Connor punted 40 yards from the eight, giving SMU the ball at mid-field. But back-to-back sacks by the MU defense, led by Byron Tinker, made SMU punt from there and Marshall improved to the 24-yard line after a 24 yard punt by Morestead in the face of a big rush by the Herd. But an interception by Devin Lowery of a Morris pass that sailed over Spann's head gave the Mustangs the ball at the Herd 28-yard line. Willis hit Chase for a 15 yard gain, then back-to-back personal fouls on that play by the Johnsons, Josh and J.J., of the Herd put SMU at the three. Willis found Sanders for the go-ahead touchdown with 7:40 to play in the third quarter, SMU leading 17-14. The Herd defense rose up on the next drive by SMU, however, and turned the ball over on downs with consecutive tackles for loss by J.J. Johnson and C.J. Spillman to give the Herd the ball heading into the fourth quarter.

In the first half of the game, SMU came out making big gains on offense, as the Herd run defense was being tested early. Corey Slater, the juco QB for the Mustangs, got the start, but gained nine yards on two of the first three plays on runs by DeMyron Martin and Johnnie Fitzgerald. Slater also found Bobby Chase inbetween for gains of eight and six through the air. But just like the UCF game, Marshall stiffened at the 33-yard line, forcing SMU to attempt a 44-yard field goal. Thomas Morestead missed wide right, only his third miss in nine tries, and the Herd took over on offense.

Marshall came out and saw Bernard Morris run and pass well to start the game on offense. He picked up seven yards in two runs, then found freshman tight end Cody Slate for eight yards and an initial MU first down at the 40-yard line. But the Herd stalled and punted from the 48, where Ian O'Connor nailed the Ponies at the eight-yard line on a 50 yard punt. It's his 10th punt downed insider the 20-yard line, on 21 punts.

Marshall allowed SMU to drive out to the 33, before Juan Underwood and John Jacobs sacked Slater to set up third and long. Missing on a pass, Morestead unleased a 62 yard punt that Emanuel Spann returned from the seven to the 24-yard line to set MU up first-and-ten with 3:36 left in the first quarter. With a six yard gain on first down, Ahmad Bradshaw became the 12th back in MU history to top 2,000 yards. A play later, he passed Llow Turner (2,000 1996-99) for 11th with 11 more yards on a perfect option pitch from B. Morris. Three passes to Spann moved the Herd to the SMU 37-yard line, first-and-ten, as the first quarter ended 0-0 but with the Herd on the move at Gerald J. Ford Stadium on the SMU campus.

MU bogged down, and Anthony Binswanger missed a career-long try from 54 yards that was short. SMU began at the 37 yard line and drove into the Red Zone, where the Mustangs have scored 34 of 36 trips this year and 64 of 68 over the last two years. After a trick play, where wide receiver Zack Sledge threw back to quarterback Justin Willis, who entered to start this series, got SMU to the seven. Willis then returned the favor by finding Sledge in front of J.J. Johnson, who interferred but couldn't stop the Mustang touchdown with 11:00 to play in the second quarter. SMU led 7-0 as the Herd trailed once again, for the fifth time in six games.

Getting the ball back at its own 11-yard line, the Herd was forced to punt after a first down, but SMU grabbed a facemask on the punt and gave the Herd the ball at the 40-yard line. Marshall found Hiram Moore for a short gain to mid-field, but Moore was called for a personal foul facemask although the late hit on Moore out-of-bounds went uncalled. Morris responded with an 11 yard scramble and a 20 yard pass to Matt Morris to put MU into SMU territory. A 18 yard pass to Slate, three to M. Morris and 12 more to E.J. Wynn put the Herd at the two. Bradshaw ran through a huge hole for the touchdown and Binswanger tied the game 7-7 on a 14 play, 89 yard drive by the Herd that took 5:15 off the clock and left 5:32 to play in the first half.

On the next series, SMU had third-and-three at its own 27-yard line when Josh Johnson and C.J. Spillman hit Willis and forced a fumble, recovered by Marshall defensive lineman Ryland Wilson at the 33-yard line. 12 yards from Bradshaw was followed up by a 17 yard pass from Morris to Slate. Two runs from the four of two yards each put Bradshaw into the end zone for the second time and gave the Herd its first lead, 14-7, with just over two minutes to play in the half. MU drives 33 yards in five plays and just over two minutes to go up on SMU.

SMU began to drive up the field in a fashion similar to UCF's game-winning drive at the end of last week's loss to the Knights. SMU drove from its 20-yard line to the MU 17-yard line, with a pretty 18 yard completion from Willis to running back Cedric Dorsey, who was bumped out of bounds with :05 to play by MU's Curtis Keyes. Morestead didn't hit the ball perfectly, but his 34 yard field goal made the halftime score Marshall-14, SMU-10. The Mustangs drove 63 yards in nine plays, using the last 2:01 of the half.

Total offense was very close at the half, with SMU having 199 (101 rushing) and Marshall having 184 (72 rush). Morris was 12-of-16 for 112 yards passing, while Willis (7-8, 75, TD) and Slater (3-6, 23) combined for 98 yards through the air. Both teams had 11 first downs. Individually, Bradshaw had 13 carries for 56 yards and two scores, while Morris added 16 yards on seven runs. For SMU, Willis had 38 yards on five touches while Fitzgerald ran six times for 20 yards. TE Ryan Kennedy caught three passes for 18 yards for the Mustangs and Sledge added 33 yards on two catches and the lone SMU touchdown. Slate led MU with three receptions for 43 yards, while M. Morris had three for 28 and Spann three for 20.

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