HUNTINGTON — Earlier this week, Marshall University football coach Doc Holliday said it always seems like there is a 12th man on the field when the team takes part in the annual “75” game.
There were certainly a pair of instances in which it seemed as if someone extra was with the Thundering Herd on Friday night, as the team took advantage of Louisiana Tech miscues en route to a 31-10 win over the Bulldogs in front of 19,893 fans at Joan C. Edwards Stadium.
It was a Louisiana Tech turnover late in the first half that bolstered a Marshall lead, and a costly turnover in the fourth quarter that ended any comeback attempt for the Bulldogs in a key Conference USA game.
Marshall led 24-10 early in the fourth, but Louisiana Tech still had hope behind the legs of running back Justin Henderson, driving to the Marshall 10-yard line. A fourth-and-1 snap, however, went over the head of backup quarterback Aaron Allen, who was making his first career start, and Marshall’s Tavante Beckett returned it to the Louisiana Tech 40.
Marshall running back Brenden Knox then cashed in on the turnover with a 4-yard touchdown run that gave the Herd a key win in a battle of division leaders. Knox finished the game with 113 yards on the ground and two scores.
Knox’s first touchdown run came late in the first half following the game’s most pivotal play.
The Herd got a punt inside the 10-yard line from Robert LeFevre and a defensive stop that forced the Bulldogs to punt up against their own goal line. Louisiana Tech punter Brady Farlow bobbled the snap and the Bulldogs had to fall on it at their own 1. Two plays later, Knox plunged in on a 1-yard run to give Marshall a 17-7 lead at halftime.
It was part of a 17-point surge in the final 6:58 of the second quarter that turned an early deficit into an advantage for the Herd.
After a 44-yard field goal by Justin Rohrwasser got Marshall on the board, the Herd defense forced a stop and Talik Keaton came up with a pair of big plays. Keaton returned a punt by Farlow 28 yards to set the Herd up near midfield and later added a 34-yard reception on a flea flicker that preceded Green’s 18-yard touchdown pass to Willie Johnson that gave MU the lead.
Louisiana Tech’s offense played without starting quarterback J’Mar Smith and leading receiver Adrian Hardy, but it was the Bulldogs that got on the board first on Friday night. The Bulldogs used the legs of Henderson to steady the offense, and he rolled in on a 5-yard run to start the scoring with 9:07 left in the first quarter.
From there, though, Marshall’s defense steadied, limiting Allen to short throws in his first career start.
Allen was 19 of 32 through the air, but Marshall did not give up big plays, which have been a staple of the Louisiana Tech offense this season. Allen finished with 159 yards passing.
The game marked the return of Marshall wide receiver Obi Obialo, who made a surprise appearance in the lineup after missing the first nine games of the season due to a preseason injury.
Obialo, who had previously announced on social media that he would miss the entire season, set career highs in receptions (eight) and receiving yards (146) to lead Marshall’s offense.
Green, who added a 17-yard touchdown run late in the third quarter, was 14-for-26 for 213 yards with a touchdown and interception.