Marshall staves off Colorado State rally
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — It would not be the New Mexico Bowl without some late drama.
Marshall raced out to a 17-point lead in the third quarter before having to hold on for dear life in a 31-28 victory over Colorado State on Saturday.
“It was preparation and execution,” Marshall coach Doc Holliday said. “That offensive line (of ours) did a great job.”
The Rams (7-6) had one last chance, getting the ball back at their own 16 with 3:18 left. After an apparent fumble was negated by a defensive holding call on the Thundering Herd (8-5), Colorado State was able to advance on an amazing one-handed catch by Michael Gallup on third-and-10.
Two long pass attempts by Nick Stevens were overthrown and the Rams faced fourth-and-10 on their own 39. A defensive offside call moved it up 5 yards, but Stevens’ final pass attempt was deflected back to him and he was tackled on the 43, giving the ball back to Marshall.
The Herd needed one more first down to finish the game, which they got when Chase Litton found Ryan Yurachek for an 8-yard pass completion. Marshall took a knee and ran out the clock.
“It was a microcosm of our season,” Rams coach Mike Bobo said. “We played pretty good, but then we were giving up the big plays, explosive plays for touchdowns.”
Trailing 31-14 entering the fourth quarter, Stevens guided the Rams on a quick five-play, 79-yard drive, capping it with a 24-yard touchdown pass to Detrich Clark to make it 31-21.
Litton threw an interception on Marshall’s next series, only to see Colorado State turn it over on downs when Stevens was sacked at midfield.
After the Herd’s ensuing drive stalled, the Rams went on an eight-play, 85-yard drive. Stevens scored on a 1-yard run with 6:37 left to bring Colorado State within 31-28.
“We had our chances,” Bobo said. “It was just too much feast or famine.”
Marshall got things started in the third quarter in a hurry. After the Rams’ opening drive stalled at midfield and they were forced to punt, the Herd were pinned back at the 10. Tyler King then broke through the middle and went 90 yards for a touchdown to increase the Marshall lead to 28-14.
A 21-yard field goal by Kaare Vedvik pushed that advantage to 31-14.
The Herd’s defense, though, decided the game in that quarter, stuffing the Rams repeatedly and roughing up Stevens. Colorado State had only 50 yards of total offense in the quarter.
“Our entire defense played tremendous,” Holliday said. “We got some good pressure on their quarterback.”
After a scoreless first quarter, things changed quickly at the start of the second as Litton found Tyre Brady for a 76-yard touchdown pass for an early 7-0 lead. It was the third-longest reception in New Mexico Bowl history.
“I just wanted to play and put it all on the line for the seniors,” said Brady, who was the offensive MVP with 165 yards on six catches. He almost missed the game due to a flu bug that was running rampant through the Marshall locker room.
Colorado State followed with a 15-play, 75-yard drive that chewed up 6:12. Stevens hit Clark with a 5-yard scoring pass that tied that game at 7-7 with 8:17 left in the second quarter.
The Herd answered that with a rapid six-play, 75-yard drive. The big play was a 47-yard pass from Litton to Brady that put Marshall on the 18-yard line. Two plays later, Litton found Yurachek across the middle for a 15-yard TD reception and a 14-7 lead.
The Rams responded quickly, moving 75 yards in four plays, with the key being a 48-yard pass from Stevens to Olabisi Johnson. Stevens capped the drive with a 9-yard touchdown scamper.
Marshall had an answer for that too, as Keion Davis exploded for a 68-yard TD run to put the Herd back up 21-14 with 3:55 left, a score that held until halftime.
NOTES: Colorado State benched three players for the first half and had another sit out due to a past penalty. LB Josh Watson was flagged for targeting in a game against San Jose State earlier this season, while Rashaad Boddie, Marvin Kinsey and Robert Awunganyi were sidelined for a half after violating an unspecified team rule. ... Marshall has the highest winning percentage (.846) in bowl games of any Division I team with a minimum of four appearances. The Herd have gone 11-2 since moving up to the FBS ranks. ... The Rams were set up on the east sideline as they won the 2008 and 2013 New Mexico Bowls while on that same sideline.