Marshall finished the season 4-8, 3-5 in Conference USA but may have seen the start of a 2009 quarterback battle. Sophomore Brian Anderson got his first start since last season against New Hampshire, and the sophomore from Louisville fulfilled the promise of his ability against TU while standing in for 11-game starter Mark Cann. Cann, the red-shirt frosh quarterback at MU, had injuries to both shoulders and did not dress as expected.
Courtney Edmonson held the ball up as he crossed the goal line during his 19-yard touchdown catch from QB Brian Anderson in the first quarter against Tulsa. photo by Greg Perry/HI staff
Anderson passed for 14-of-19 for 177 yards and three touchdowns. Darius Passmore went out with a bang, catching a team-best six passes for 73 yards and two touchdowns, a couple of long scores off the arm of Anderson.
"The seniors did their job tonight," said head coach Mark Snyder. "I'm proud of this team, they have not quit all year. I think the future is bright and we are ready to roll. I thought our tailbacks ran effectively. Brian had a great game."
Darius Passmore beat Tulsa DB Kenny Sims -and managed to keep one foot inbounds- for Passmore's second TD of the night, a 12-yard corner catch. photo by Greg Perry/HI staff
"It was a big-time battle, and we were fortunate to come in here and get a win. It was one of the toughest games we've played (this season)." Tulsa won because Rice, who TU beat, knocked off Houston, who beat Tulsa, in the final game of the season as well for the two Houston, Texas cross-town rivals.
Marshall senior running back Chubb Small had a career-best 69-yard touchdown in his final game at Marshall. Freshman back Terrell Edwards had a career-best 53-yard touchdown as he saw his career start. Sophomore running back Darius Marshall just missed having an eighth 100-yard plus game, rushing 18 times for 94 yards, while Small added 91 yards.
Michael Janac hit the arm of Tulsa QB David Johnson, causing the pass to fall short. photo by Greg Perry/HI staff
Besides Passmore, MU spread the passes around, something Cann had stuggled with down the stretch with injuries that may have been worse than the youngster let on. Tight end Cody Slate caught three passes for 58 yards while sophomore Courtney Edmonson made his one catch count with a 19-yard touchdown. Slate, a senior next season, finished with 40 receptions in ten games, but did not have a touchdown catch for the first time in six games. Passmore closed his career season with 56 catches for 945 yards and seven receiving touchdowns.
The game was tied 7-7 at the end of the first quarter, then 21-21 at halftime. At the end of the third quarter, the teams were tied 35-35, but Tulsa scored the only fourth quarter points with the winning field goal. "We felt like we had a chance," said Snyder. "That's a pretty good Tulsa team. I was a little disappointed in our defense, because we had a very good game plan. The offense came alive tonight. I didn't think they could come in here and score 38 points on us," said Snyder of a TU team averaging 50 points per game.
Chubb Small had clear sailing -both in front and behind him- during Small's impressive 69-yard touchdown run with 10:06 left in the second quarter against Tulsa. photo by Greg Perry/HI staff
The key play of the game was with just over two minutes to play. Marshall had a fourth and one at the 49-yard line. Small tried the middle of the line, but was met by Charles Davis and tackle Wilson Garrison and the rest of the Tulsa defense. MU came up about a foot short and Tulsa ran out the clock for the win, and the West Division title with a 10-2 mark overall, 7-1 in Conference USA. Rice beat Houston to secure the title for TU with the win, and the Hurricane will host East Division champs East Carolina next weekend.
But the "Senior Night" game was about the 14 players in their last game at MU. Senior middle linebacker Maurice Kitchens tied for the lead in tackles with 16 in his final game, forced a fumble, pressured the QB and had a tackle for loss. His 16 stops were only matched by junior outside linebacker Mario Harvey. Senior safeties stepped up in their final game. Aaron Johnson had eight stops in the game, C.J. Spillman seven tackles and one pass broken up while Ian Hoskins added three tackles. Linebacker Phillip Gamble, who played all around the defensive secondary and on special teams in his career, had two tackles, a tackle for loss and one of the four Herd sacks of David Johnson.
Senior linemen Brian Leggett and Matt Altobello blocked for their fellow senior Small, and helped the Herd to a season-high 437 yards of total offense, and allowed only one sack for minus-three yards in a coverage sack. Senior receiver E.J. Wynn has one catch for 17 yards in his last game, while fellow senior wide out Emmanuel Spann held for all five extra-points and fielded three punts on the night. Passmore not only led the team in receptions and yards, he also had two touchdowns.
The other seniors included Cody Tominack, a transfer from WVU who played linebacker and defensive line; Joe Bragg, a fireman back in Morgantown and ready to move on in the world of public safety after playing offensive line, defensive line and tight end; and Matt Parkhurst, the third tight end for the Herd who did the bulk of the run blocking at tight end and H-back last year.
Snyder dedicated the game to those seniors. Equipment manager Rich Worner (whose managers beat the trainers 23-19 last Wednesday in the annual "Turkey Bowl") pulled out his magic again with those metallic kelly green helmets for the final game for 14 seniors, all of whom will graduate this December or May of next year, or previously and are in grad school already. "We did the green helmets for the seniors," said Snyder of wearing the green helmets for the first time since the Houston win. "I want to thank those seniors, they showed us the way. We have a couple of big senior classes coming and they showed them those players who to lead."
Terrel Edwards blew past Tulsa linebacker George Clinkscale during Edwards' 53-yard touchdown run with 1:35 left in the third quarter. The score tied the game at 35-35. photo by Greg Perry/HI staff
To a man, the senior class endorsed the return of Mark Snyder as head coach of the Herd for what would be his fourth-full season. Snyder took the job following spring practice in 2005, just as MU was losing 15 scholarships from probation due to violations during the Bob Pruett years, and all but two of his 14 seniors were recruited by Pruett. While the Herd ends with a loss, it is another three point loss to another division champion in C-USA, just like earlier this year. MU lost to ECU in overtime by three and lost tonight to Tulsa by three. "Our guys played very hard but we came up three points short," said Snyder. "That seems to be our motto; one point here, two points there.
"Last year we said we have to get 10-to-11 points better per game in the off-season to have a chance. It's now down to 2-or-3 points." Marshall suffered three losses this season by three, three and two points. The Herd has to get better on the road, where a win at Southern Miss, 6-6 and headed to a bowl, was the first since year two for Snyder's teams. It is worth noting, however, that Marshall lost to bowl-bound West Virginia, Tulsa, East Carolina and Rice as well as BCS-bound and the Big East champs from Cincinnati. The Herd did knock off bowl teams like Houston and Memphis this season.
"I think we did improve," said Snyder on the season. "The two teams that…will play in the Conference USA championship beat us by three in overtime and three tonight. I don't think any steps taken backwards (this season). Here is just where we are right now." Snyder's staff will fly out Sunday and Monday as they start the recruiting process, already with two early commitments.
The Herd is rumored to be looking at two quarterbacks, one from Fork Union (who was supposed to visit the Herd on Saturday night) and looking at another from the junior college ranks. Nick Owens is the quarterback from FUMA, a 6-foot-1, 190-pound player who is from Westlake, California, and is rated as a three-star player by Scout.com (Herd Insider is affiliated with Scout.com). The quarterback has four offers, from Western Carolina, Marshall, Middle Tennessee State and Houston, and interest from a handful more, including South Florida, Virginia Tech and Cincinnati.