Back came Wisconsin, scoring 17 points in the second period, 21 points in the third quarter and 13 more points in the fourth quarter to move to 35-1 since 2004 here at the former site of a Civil War campground. Marshall was dominating the Badgers early in the game. The Herd out-gained the Badgers in the first quarter, 100 yards to 25. Chubb Small put MU on the board with a one-yard touchdown at the 4:08 minute of the first quarter, as Marshall drove 58 yards in eight plays, cashing in after shutting down the running game of the Badgers.
Mario Harvey wrapped up Wisconsin back P.J. Hill. photo by Neil Ament for HI
"We started fast, played a pretty good team in a hostile environment. We felt pretty good at halftime," said MU head coach Mark Snyder.
Marshall's next drive ended the first quarter and started the second. The Herd went 58 yards again, this time in ten plays, and it ended with a Darius Marshall one-yard run and a 14-0 lead. The key play was a screen pass from Mark Cann to Lee Smith, who became the No. 1 tight end when Cody Slate was held out of the game.
Smith had a nice day, as he was second in receiving to only Darius Passmore (7 catches for 95 yards, over 14 yards per catch.). Smith had six receptions for 53 yards, and a long of 25 to set up the Herd's second TD.
But as the Badgers students finally filled their north end zone midway through the second quarter, Wisconsin went away from the run and began to throw the ball with success. The Badgers got on the board at the 10:16 mark, after a kick out-of-bounds by Craig Rantanamorn put the ball at the 40-yard line. 60 yards and seven plays later, P.J. Hill scored easily from two-yards out to give the Red and White faithful their first score of the game and the score was 14-7 Herd.
Receiver Darius Passmore ran for extra yardage against the Badgers Saturday afternoon. Passmore caught 7 passes for 95 yards. photo by Neil Ament for HI
But Wisconsin scored an additional touchdown with just 36 seconds left, when Zach Brown scored from three yards out to give Wisconsin its first lead at 17-14. It appeared the Herd would be able to drive down the field and hit a possible game tying field goal, but a pass to Bryant Milligan was downed with just one second left and Cann was unable to spike the ball fast enough to give Rantanamorn a shot before the clock ran out. The Herd was only down a field goal and got the ball to start the second half. But the first of two Cann interceptions kept the momentum on the side of the Badgers.
"But it was a tale of two halves. We told our kids it would be the first team that blinked, and we throw the interception," said Snyder. Niles Brinkley picked off Cann at the 38-yard line and returned the ball 16 yards to the Herd's 22. Three plays later, P.J. Hill scored from one-yard out for a 24-14 lead.
Next drive, Cann threw another interception and set up a second quick touchdown, as Allen Evridge hit tight end Garrett Graham for a 26-yard touchdown, his second of the year with All-American candidate Travis Beckum sidelined with a hamstring problem. "We thought Mark got dinged a little bit, he flipped the formation on a play, so we let Brian go in and (Cann) gathered his thoughts," said Snyder of the second interception by Cann.
In came sophomore Brian Anderson, but on the second play Passmore let a pass go through his hands and Brinkley had his second interception of the Herd. Marshall would stop the next Wisconsin drive when freshman linebacker Tyson Gale recovered a fumble by Evridge, and set Marshall up at the 25-yard line. But the offense was unable to move the ball and in came freshman Kase Whitehead, and what a year he is having so far.
TE Lee Smith had a solid day against Wisconsin, catching six passes for 53 yards. photo by Neil Ament for HI
Today, there were no returns against the true freshman. He punted six times for a 41.3 yard per kick average, nearly the same as last week, and just like last week four of the six punts were downed inside the 20-yard line.
"We just can't have three turnovers. Our focus next week has to be on holding onto the ball, not turning it over," said Snyder of the three interceptions and of getting ready for Memphis next Saturday in the C-USA opener in Huntington.
Wisconsin would score again when John Clay, a freshman third team back, scored on a four-yard run with 1:04 left in the game and Wisconsin had then scored 21 points in the third quarter and took a 38-31 win. In the fourth quarter, the huge Wisconsin live (which averages 6-foot-6, 319-pounds) began wearing down the Herd's defense. Injuries also played a factor in the fourth, as players like D.J. Wingate, Tyson Gale and others were helped from the field with injuries.
Bradie Ewing became the seventh Badger to score when he went in from one-yard out at the 7:57 mark to make the score 44-14, as Johnnie Jones blocked the extra-point. Clay would score on the longest scoring run of the day, from five yards out, with 4:49 to play and set the final score at 51-14. Wisconsin improves to 2-0, but has a tough test next week at Fresno State.
Aaron Johnson led the Herd in tackling with 11 stops, starting at strong safety for Ashton Hall, who is in a boot currently. True freshman DeQuan Bembry was second with eight stops, six solos, while C.J. Spillman and Mario Harvey each had five tackles apiece.
Marshall is now 1-1, and to be truthful exactly where most fans of the Herd thought they would be after two games. The Herd must regroup and heal up, because Conference USA action starts next Saturday when the Memphis Tigers visit for a 7 p.m. kickoff. Memphis and Marshall have never lost to each other at home, and a 2-1, 1-0 C-USA start would be a great step forward for this young team.