Bernard Morris, the Herd's senior quarterback, led the way with with 13 carries for 120 yards. Morris also threw for 227 yards through the air on 15-of-33 passing with no touchdowns and no interceptions. In fact, Marshall was plus one on turnovers for the first time this season with a John Saunders interception of Rice QB Chase Clement. Clement did pass for 281 yards, 244 coming in the second half as Marshall shutout the Owls 17-0 in the first half. The Herd had not shutout an opponent since pitching a zero at Central Florida in October of 2004, when the Knights and the Herd were competing in the Mid-American Conference.
Bernard Morris pumped his fist upon scoring the first of two rushing TDs, this one in the second quarter from 9 yards out. photo by Greg Perry/HI staff
It feels good to get a win," said head coach Mark Snyder. "I thought our defense played very well in first half. They got tired and our depth is lacking, but this Rice team averages 40-50 points per game. It was a great effort." Marshall's defense held the Owls to just 120 total yards of offense in the first half and jumped to the lead on second quarter touchdowns by Morris and Kelvin Turner, plus an Anthony Binswanger 42-yard field goal. While the Herd did not score a touchdown in the first quarter, having been out-scored 68-to-8, they also did not allow a score. It also was only the second lead at halftime this season for the Herd, having led West Virginia 13-6 in game two.
Darius Marshall tried to get the ball over the goal line in the second quarter, but came up short. photo by Greg Perry/HI staff
There was no doubt about who was the most important player for Marshall on the night, and that was Morris. He rushed for 79 of the Herd's 165 yards rushing at the half. Morris ended the game with 347 of the Herd's 481 yards of offense, scoring twice. "Bernard was the X-factor," said Snyder of his quarterback. Morris has battled turf-toe all season, but looked as healthy tonight as he had all season. "We had been very, very close and finally found a way to win," said a relieved Snyder after the game.
Marshall back Chubb Small ran 9 times for 74 yards, including this 26-yarder with Rice's Andrew Sendejo on his back. photo by Greg Perry/HI staff
Rice did not go down easy, however, as Clement rallied the Owls from a 27-7 hole at the start of the fourth quarter to a 27-21 game with 3:12 to play. He passed for touchdowns to James Casey for an 11-yard score with 7:02 to play, then hit Toren Dixon for a two-yard touchdown with 3:12 to go. The Owls tried for the on-sides kick, but senior receiver Shawn Lauzon fell on the loose ball. Six plays later, Turner iced the game with a eight-yard score and a 34-21 final. Lauzon had a nice night, making two catches for 56 yards to finish second on the team in yards including a 23-yard "circus-catch" at the Rice 41-yard line that set up Turner's first touchdown in the second quarter.
Maurice Kitchens sacked Rice QB Chase Clement late in the game. photo by Greg Perry/HI staff
On defense, MU was led by safety C.J. Spillman, who had 11 tackles and broke-up one pass. Linebacker Maurice Kitchens added ten tackles, one sack and one pass broken-up. J.J. Johnson, back starting at corner the past two games, had nine tackles and broke up two passes, while Ashton Hall (who moved to nickel) added eight tackles. End John Jacobs led the defensive front with five tackles, three tackles for loss and one sack. Senior Byron Tinker, the only senior who starts on the Herd's defense, had an outstanding game with six tackles, a tackle for loss and a quarterback hurry.
Kelvin Turner celebrated the first of his two rushing TDs against Rice, in front of Rice defensive back Andrew Sendejo. photo by Greg Perry/HI staff
Marshall improves to 1-7, 1-3 in Conference USA while Rice falls to 1-7, 1-3 in C-USA. The Herd will travel to Orlando, Florida next week to face UCF in the Knight's all-new BrightHouse Networks Stadium. The kickoff will be at 3:30 p.m. and will be shown on Comcast/Charter Sports South (CSS) regionally, as well as heard on the Thundering Herd/ISP Sports Network. MU leads the all-time series 3-2 with the Knights, but Marshall won three straight in the MAC while UCF has won both C-USA contests with the Herd.