UCF continues its hold over Marshall
HUNTINGTON - After Saturday night, Big East-bound Central Florida will no longer have Marshall to kick around.
Heavy emphasis on kicking, which is pretty much what the Knights did in a 54-17 victory over the Thundering Herd. UCF (6-2 overall, 4-0 Conference USA) beat Marshall (3-5, 2-2) for the eighth time in a row and became the first visiting team to score 50-plus points in the 22-year history of Joan C. Edwards Stadium.
Latavius Murray ran for 156 yards and scored four touchdowns, three rushing and one receiving. The second TD was the backbreaker, as he escaped a potential loss and ran 75 yards to make it 27-3 late in the second quarter. That started an exodus by much of the 22,563 on hand, fans who weren't in the mood to see the home side stink it up in chilly, drizzly weather.
When the Herd wasn't giving up big offensive plays, it was giving up two kickoff return TDs to Quincy McDuffie or dropping passes (seven in the first half) or giving up sacks (four) to a hungry pass rush. And there were other blunders, such as Kevin Grooms going to his knees after catching a kickoff.
With his receivers dropping passes against one of C-USA's best secondaries and that pass rush, Herd quarterback Rakeem Cato wasn't crisp. He threw for 298 yards but needed 62 attempts to complete 35. Marshall was outgained 568-364 despite running 98 plays to UCF's 62.
Cato got lucky on the first of his two scoring tosses, a 15-yarder to Antavious Wilson late in the first half. UCF cornerback A.J. Bouye flubbed a possible interception and Wilson plucked the ball out of the sky.
That made it 27-10 with 26 seconds left in the first half. It was Marshall's first offensive TD against UCF in 115 minutes, 16 seconds, dating back to the third quarter of the 2010 game.
That's all you need to know about UCF's domination of the series since the teams moved from the Mid-American Conference to C-USA in 2005. The Herd won the three MAC games, but has been frustrated ever since.
Marshall started with an Aaron Dobson drop-induced three-and-out, and then had a drive stall at the UCF 30, thanks to a Gator Hoskins drop on third-and-10. The Herd took a 3-0 lead on its next possession on Justin Haig's 43-yard field goal, but that was a disappointing result after a 13-play drive.
That was Marshall's first lead in the series since the 2009 game, but it lasted just 13 seconds. That's how long it took McDuffie to take the next kickoff 97 yards.
Billy Mitchell saved the Herd from falling behind further with an interception, but the reprieve was short. After another three-and-out (Dobson dropped a third-and-6 pass), the Knights drove 80 yards, finishing with a Murray 2-yard run.
After MU's third three-and-out possession, the Knights got the ball near midfield and scored on their fifth play, a 16-yard swing pass to Jeff Godfrey. A few minutes later, Murray struck for his long run and a 27-3 lead.
Cato brought the Herd back with a 13-play, 80-yard drive ending with Wilson's TD, bringing a measure of momentum to the home side. But that dissipated immediate upon the second-half kickoff, which McDuffie returned 98 yards.
It was McDuffie's sixth kickoff return and the third the Herd has given up this year. Marshall has had yielded eight non-offensive touchdowns.
At that point, the fan exodus picked up, leaving one to wonder how many will return next week for Marshall's bout with bottom-feeder Memphis.
At linebacker, Jermaine Holmes did not play and Devin Arrington missed an extended period.
Reach Doug Smock at 304-348-5130 or firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him at twitter.com/dougsmock.