In the waning minutes of the contest, Marshall saw tailback Darius Marshall fumble; junior receiver Emmanuel Spann drop a snap that would cost Marshall the three-points they needed to tie; have senior center Doug Legursky have a bad snap during the final drive; and see quarterback Bernard Morris throw...well, to no one on fourth down and three, after rushing the previous play for 20 yards to get to fourth and three after the bad snap. The Herd also was unable to come up with a two fumbles by Memphis in the second half, the most costly on the kickoff after MU cut the score to 24-21 with 5:22 to play in the contest.
Tight End Cody Slate was all alone in the end zone for this touchdown against Memphis on Tuesday night. photo by Greg Perry/HI staff
Memphis was playing its third game in the last 11 days, having lost badly ten days ago at Central Florida, 59-20, then having Arkansas State rally from 31-6 down to beat the Tigers, 35-31, and win over Memphis for the second-consecutive year. Then on Sunday night, defensive lineman Taylor Bradford was gunned down during an apparent robbery right on campus. The team, and Bradford's parents, agreed to play Marshall on Tuesday on a game seen nationwide on ESPN2.
Will Hudgens, playing due to an injury to Memphis starting quarterback Martin Hankins in the game at Arkansas State just this past Thursday. Hudgens threw for a career-high 346 yards and two scores on 30-of-45 passing. Morris had a great night until the final pass, and he seemed to be animated on the sidelines with his receivers on what route they ran on the Herd's final play with :55 seconds to play. He hit 23-of-32 in the game, for 220 yards and two touchdowns. Morris suffered the third interception of the year on another ball off the intended receivers hands. MU had two turnovers to none for Memphis. Morris also rushed for 70 yards on the night.
The Herd started the second half with a 69 yard drive, all on the ground, and Darius Marshall carried the ball for nine, 15, five and the final 11 for the touchdown and a 14-9 Marshall lead just 12:02 into the third quarter. Marshall finished with 90 yards rushing as MU rushed for a season-best 185 yards on the ground. Back came the Tigers with a 86 yard drive, finished up with Carlos Singleton beating freshman corner DeNathian Robinson for not only a touchdown of 19 yards, but the two-point conversion as well as the 6-foot-8 Singleton easily caught the lob over Robinson to give Memphis back the lead, 17-14.
The fumble bug came back to bit the Herd on the next drive. Darius Marshall put the ball on the turf after Marshall had drive from its own 29 to the Memphis 33. The Tigers turned that miscue into a 10-point lead when Hudgens drove the Tigers down to the MU four to end the first half, with Singleton again having a key play. The big wide receiver 35 yard pass on third down and seven at the 40-yard line. Hudgens gave the Tigers a 24-14 lead when he found fullback Greg Hinds for a four-yard first down to start the fourth quarter.
Marshall immediately moved the ball on the ground and threw the air and appeared to have a touchdown when Morris threw to Courtney Edmonson, but the sophomore did not come up with the ball in the end zone. A Anthony Binswanger field goal attempt from the 15-yard line went away when holder Emmanuel Spann fumbled the snap and Memphis recovered.
Back came Morris and the Herd after the defense made Memphis punt from the 36 yard line and about eight minutes to play. On a 69-yard drive that took only 2:35, Morris found Darius Passmore for a four-yard touchdown to pull Marshall back within three, 24-21, with 5:22 left in the contest. Morris hit 6-of-9 on the drive for 63 yards, and ran for the other six yards.
Memphis led at the half, 9-7, thanks to three Matt Reagan field goals. Reagan had entered the game just one-for-four on the season in the Tigers first four games. Memphis, however, had dominated the action of the half and only had a two-point lead to show for it. The Tigers had 47 plays and 245 yards of total offense to just 25 plays and 125 yards for Marshall, but a Bernard Morris touchdown pass to Cody Slate on one drive that Morris hit 5-for-5 passing for 56 yards, ran for five more and drew UM offsides for the other five of the six play, 66-yard drive at the 6:52 mark of the second quarter. Morris was 7-for-11 for 70 yards, with a score and an interception off his receivers hands. Memphis was led in the first half by Will Hudgens, who was starting for the injured Martin Hankins. Hudgens hit 16-of-27 for 192 yards passing.
The Tigers took the opening kickoff and marched down the field for a 3-0 lead on the opening series of the game in the Herd's Conference USA opener at the Liberty Bowl. After a three-and-out by MU and a shanked punt by Anthony Binswanger, the Tigers drove for three more and 6-0 lead.
Back came the Herd, but after gaining a first down, Courtney Edmonson let a ball go right through his hands for an interception by Rico Mathis at the Tiger 46-yard line. But the MU defense of coordinator Steve Dunlap made a stand and forced Memphis to punt, as freshman quarterback Matt Malouf kicked the ball to the six. The Herd came out thundering from the shadow of its own end zone, with Darius Marshall gaining 16 yards in two carries and Chubb Small adding 17 on two more. The first quarter ended with Memphis having all the momentum and all the offense, but only two field goals and a 6-0 lead to show for its efforts on offense and defense.
The MU offense came up short for a first, but the Herd defense keep up the pressure in the second quarter, forcing Memphis to punt to Bryant Milligan. On his first return of his career, Milligan returned the ball 13 yards to give the Herd first and ten at the 34-yard line. The Herd came out passing and Bernard Morris hit Emmanuel Spann for 25 yards to open Marshall's biggest play of the night. Morris found D. Marshall for seven yards, Slate for four and another first down then ran for five. A sack was wiped out by Freddie Barnett of UM being offsides and the Herd had first and ten at the 20 of the Tigers. On the next play, Morris found Cody Slate wide open down the seam route and the Herd took a 7-6 lead.
Back came Memphis, with a pretty 67-yard drive starting at its own 20. Will Hudgens hit a big 37-yard gain on third and 10 at the Memphis 33 when Carlton Robinzine caught the ball in the midst of three Herd defenders. The Herd defense stiffened and forced Matt Reagan to kick his third field goal of the night, this one from 30 yards away, to set the halftime score at Memphis-9, Marshall-7 with four seconds on the clock. D. Marshall finished the half with pretty 36-yard kickoff return.
NOTES: Everything old is new again. The Thundering Herd has added award stickers to the helmets for the first time in many years for outstanding play. Mark Snyder has dipped into Herd history to begin awarding "Herd Horns," or stickers that look like the horns of the Buffalo, or American Bison, the Herd's mascot. Jack Lengyel gave a similar award while coaching the "Young" Thundering Herd from 1971-74, as the stickers go up the back of the helmet to form a pair of horns with every two given. The last time MU used stickers was 1988, when then head coach George Chaump gave "Hammers and Washboards," awards for working out in the weight room over the summer. In 1976, then MU coach Frank Ellwood gave American Flag stickers to players for outstanding plays to put on the "Ohio State" style helmets of that year's Herd, who had no logo on the side of that helmet. Marshall returned to a "M" in 1977 and, except for the 1984-85 green helmet of former coach Stan Parrish, has had a "M" or logo with a "M" in it since.