Here’s the report card from Marshall’s 48-25 loss to UCF in Monday’s Gasparilla Bowl:
n OFFENSE: D – Marshall University could play with UCF. The Thundering Herd proved that in the second, third and fourth quarters of the Gasparilla Bowl.
Ah, but there are four quarters in a football game and Marshall’s offense was an absolute disaster in the first period. It committed one, two, three turnovers in the first 15 minutes of the game.
That is simply unacceptable at every level.
There was an interception thrown by quarterback Isaiah Green, which really wasn’t his fault. The redshirt sophomore quarterback’s pass bounced off wide receiver Obi Obialo’s hands right into the hands of UCF’s Richie Grant.
Then, there was a lost fumble by Marshall tight end Armani Levias while running after a short catch. Again, Grant grabbed the turnover.
Next, Green threw a backwards pass intended for Talik Keaton that was deflected, which turned it into a fumble. UCF’s Morris Branch grabbed the fumble and returned it 45 yards for a touchdown.
Those three turnovers dug Marshall a 21-0 hole in the first quarter. After that, the Thundering Herd competed with UCF despite two more turnovers on Marshall’s offense.
It is impossible to overcome five turnovers.
n DEFENSE: C- – It played lights out for the first half. In fact, the defense allowed only three points in the second quarter, holding the halftime score to 24-7.
But when the rain slowed and finally stopped, UCF’s offense kicked into gear. The Knights scored 21 points in the third quarter. Obviously, Marshall was in no position to trade touchdowns with UCF, but that is what happened.
The high-powered Knights finished with a whopping 587 yards total offense, averaging 7.2 yards per play. What’s worse, UCF rolled up 310 yards rushing, averaging 6.6 yards per attempt. That’s because Marshall played nickel in the secondary for most of the game, replacing a linebacker with a defensive back.
UCF simply adjusted and took what the Thundering Herd was giving it. That’s smart football.
n SPECIAL TEAMS: A – They couldn’t have played better. Placekicker Justin Rohrwasser nailed a 50-yard field goal. Punter Robert LeFevre averaged an impressive 47.8 yards per kick. Plus, there were good kickoff returns and a 22-yard punt return for Keaton.
n COACHING: C- — Marshall’s offense couldn’t deal with the rain, which comes as no surprise. It has struggled with wet conditions all season, which means coaches have to call plays accordingly. That didn’t happen, however.
But Marshall’s coaches did an excellent job of regrouping the Herd. MU actually scored 18 points in the third quarter, which has been its most problematic and troublesome period all season. That was impressive to watch, despite being too little, too late.
n OVERALL: D – The game was just as chippy as most Marshall-UCF games traditionally have been. There were so many unsportsmanlike conduct penalties, I lost count. The worst ended with standout pass-rusher Darius Hodge getting ejected. That’s never acceptable.
Veteran Marshall head coach Doc Holliday’s unbeaten bowl record came to an end, leaving him with a 6-1 record. Some solace can be taken in the fact UCF outscored Marshall only 24-18 during the second half.
Again, Marshall competed with UCF when the Herd wasn’t committing turnovers. But does that constitute a moral victory? Uh, no.
MU finished with an 8-5 record with no championships – bowl, division or conference. It was below expectations.