Marshall running back Kevin Grooms (37) celebrates after scoring the winning touchdown Saturday against Rice.
HOUSTON - After nearly four hours of running roughshod and then getting the runaround from Rice quarterback Taylor McHargue, Marshall finally, finally won in the state of Texas.
Kevin Grooms, who did not have a carry last week against Ohio, scored his fourth touchdown to give the Thundering Herd a 54-51 double-overtime win over the Owls Saturday before a Rice Stadium crowd liberally announced at 14,204.
Grooms and Steward Butler had breakout games and were set up to do so - first, by the Herd coaches' move of Travon Van to cornerback and second, by Rice's not-so-solid defense. Butler led the way with 166 yards, while Remi Watson added 84. They combined for seven touchdowns in all - six by rushing and a Grooms reception for another score.
But the Herd (2-2, 1-0) had to survive a career game by McHargue, who threw for 314 yards, ran for another 153 and figured in four touchdowns before bowing out with a shoulder injury.
"It just kept going back and forth, back and forth," said Herd coach Doc Holliday. "You know I'm disappointed in the way the defense played a little bit, and I told them that. But that's the first time in the history of Marshall to win a game in Texas, so we don't have to think of that anymore."
The end to McHargue's day came when he dove in futility for a touchdown at the end of an otherwise brilliant 45-yard run, a gallop that set up Chris Boswell's field goal that tied it at 41 on the last play of regulation.
McHargue threw for three touchdowns and ran for one as the Owls outgained Marshall 647-593. He rallied the Owls (1-3, 0-1) from a 41-31 deficit in the final 4:10.
That was a peculiar closing stretch, beginning with the conversion attempt following Watson's 2-yard run.
Trying to stretch the lead beyond 11 points and forcing Rice to score two touchdowns, holder Blake Frohnapfel rose up to fire a quick pass for a two-point conversion, but the ball squirted away. He chased it down and fired a pass, inexplicably, out of the end zone.
Operating on the Rice 39-yard line after a pooch kickoff, McHargue misfired on three passes before hitting Vance McDonald for 18 yards on fourth-and-10. Two plays later, he overcame a near-fumble to complete a 43-yard TD scamper.
Marshall thought Rice might try an onside kick, and geared its kick return formation for it. Boswell opted to lob it over the formation, forcing Andrew Snipes-Booker to dash back catch it center-fielder style. Then he took a knee at the Herd 6-yard line.
After gaining just 7 yards in three plays, the Herd was forced to punt. It received a major break when Tyler Williams' punt sailed pass the returner and bounded to the Rice 21 - a 66-yard kick.
But Rice advanced the ball to midfield in just four plays, and then McHargue got loose on his final long run. He exited with 1:20 left, leaving Rice on the Marshall 2 and presenting a major time dilemma for coach Doc Holliday and staff.
If Rice scored a touchdown, Rakeem Cato would need as much time as possible to rally for a touchdown. But conservation of time could play in Rice's favor.
Tailback Turner Petersen ran for a yard to the 1, and Marshall called a timeout with 45 seconds left. Then came the penalty that may have saved the Herd's skin - as the Owls were ready to snap, Petersen flinched, barely but enough to draw a flag.
As the ball backed up to the 6, Marshall reversed its time strategy and accepted a 10-second runoff that came with the penalty. After Marques Aiken stuffed quarterback Driphus Jackson for a yard gain, Rice called timeout with five seconds left and sent Boswell out to tie the game.
Rice won the toss for overtime and went on defense, but couldn't slow down four Herd rushes. One was a second-and-4 pass call, but Cato pulled the ball down and gained 6. Watson scored from four yards out to give MU a 48-41 lead.
Rice scored even more easily on its possession, with Jackson hitting Jordan Taylor for 22 yards and running the final three. Then the Owls got the ball to start the second overtime.
Jackson hit Taylor for 10 yards to the MU 15 and had 6-foot-5, 265-pound McDonald open for a touchdown. But as the ball reached McDonald, Okechukwu Okoroha laid a major hit on him, knocking the ball free.
Jackson rushed for four yards on second down, then overthrew McDonald in the end zone on third down. That resulted in Boswell's third field goal for Rice's first lead at 51-48 - but that gave Marshall the opening to run out of Houston with a win.
And run the Herd did, needing just two plays - Watson for 20 and Grooms the remaining five.
It took 3 hours, 50 minutes, 1,240 combined total yards and 63 first downs, but the Herd slayed the "Texas Hex" once and for all.
Reach Doug Smock at 304-348-5130 or firstname.lastname@example.org.