Herd Falls To SMU, 31-21, In Dallas

Marshall and SMU were playing the type of game they had in 2005 in Huntington, changing leads and very near in the statistical categories. The Herd even jumped to a 21-17 lead at the start of the fourth quarter when a tipped ball became a 25 yard TD to Marcus Fitzgerald. But the Mustangs came storming back on Marshall turnovers, including three interceptions by Devin Lowery of SMU, to win 31-21.

Marshall led the Mustangs 14-10 at the half on two Ahmad Bradshaw touchdowns. The Herd's workhorse had 20 carries for 91 yards. SMU jumped to the lead on Lowery's first interception of the year off Bernard Morris inside MU territory at the 28-yard line midway through the third quarter. Justin Willis, suspended last Friday before the UTEP game due to an altercation with another SMU student and just re-instated on Thursday, came off the bench to throw four touchdowns including a go-ahead toss to Emmanuel Saunders of SMU at the 7:40 mark of the third quarter. Sanders set an SMU school record with a touchdown reception in his fifth-straight game after catching a three-yard score from Willis in the third. He led SMU with 62 yards on six receptions. Corey Slater was 3-of-6 for 23 yards for SMU before being replaced by Willis.

The teams traded possesions in the third quarter, but the MU defense stopped the SMU offense at the 18-yard line on back-to-back tackles for loss by James Johnson and C.J. Spillman . Morris and the Herd took over on the last play of the third quarter and really began to move as the fourth quarter began. Mixing Bradshaw runs and Morris passes, Morris drove the team 50 yards to the Mustang 25-yard line. He looked for tight end Cody Slate, but the ball tipped off his fingers straight to Fitzgerald, who scored to give MU the lead, 21-17, with just about 12 mintues to play in the game.

From there, it was all SMU the final 12 minutes of the game. Willis led the Mustangs on an 80-yard drive, finding Reynaldo Pellerin for a seven-yard touchdown at the 6:37 mark to jump back in the lead, 24-21. Chubb Small was hit on the resulting kickoff by Paul Hiemenz and fumbled and Will Bonilla recovered for the Mustangs. Two plays later, Willis tossed his fourth touchdown pass of the game, 16th of the year, to tight end Ryan Kennedy, who went in from 17 yards out to push the lead to 31-21.

Marshall would throw interceptions on its next two possesions, both again by Lowery, and SMU ran the final minutes out to improve to 4-3, 2-1 in Conference USA. The Herd falls to 1-5 for the first time since 1982 and is 0-2 in Conference USA play. For SMU, it is the best start for the program since they were 5-2 in 1986.

Statistically, the teams were close. SMU gained 366 yards, 231 through the air, while Marshall had 299, with 192 passing. But the Herd only ran 59 plays to 74 for the Mustangs and had the ball on offense for only 9:58 of the second half. B. Morris hit for 19-of-32 passes, but threw the three interceptions and the Herd had four turnovers in the contest. Willis was almost perfect, connecting on 20--of-23 for 208 yards and four scores.

Marshall did have a couple of bright spots, as Matt Morris had a career-best six catches foe 62 yards to lead the Herd. Defensive tackle Byron Tinker also set a personal best with seven tackles, four tackles for loss and three sacks in the contest. Marshall was led for the second week in tackles by Curtis Keyes, who along with Spillman had eight tackles, all solo. Matt Couch had seven tackles and a sack, while Zearrick Mathews broke up two passes and made two tackles at the corner before leaving the game with an injury. Ian O'Connor punted three times for 46.0 per kick and placed his 11th punt of the year inside the 20-yard line.


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