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Marshall’s Owen Porter (55) and Elijah Alston celebrate a big play in the New Orleans Bowl.

HUNTINGTON — After Marshall’s 36-21 loss to No. 16 Louisiana in the R&L Carriers New Orleans Bowl, Marshall defensive end Owen Porter was congratulating the Ragin’ Cajuns on their victory when a man pulled him off to the side for a picture.

This wasn’t just any man, though. This was Marshall great B.J. Cohen, who was at Caesars Superdome to check out the game.

In the loss, Porter put on a clinic from his defensive end spot, finishing with six tackles and four tackles for loss while creating havoc in the Louisiana backfield — just the same way Cohen did during his time with the Herd in their successful run in the late 1990s.

At the time of that photo, Porter didn’t know his four tackles for loss tied the all-time Marshall bowl game record that he now shared with Cohen’s 1997 Motor City Bowl and Alex Bazzie’s 2013 Military Bowl performances.

That statistic gave the picture a bit more historical impact for the Herd and Porter, whom the team has nicknamed “Cowboy.”

While Porter was pleased to learn of matching that record, it was of little consequence to him following the game.

“I don’t really care about the stats,” Porter said. “I don’t really care who makes the play. I just want to win.”

While it was of little solace to Porter after the game, it does put a cap on a strong finish to the 2021 season while serving as a springboard for the redshirt sophomore into his junior season in 2022.

It will be a season in 2022 in which Porter is expected to be one of the leaders of the defense.

As Marshall head coach Charles Huff looks for players who impact the team from a play-making and emotional standpoint, there are few better than Porter.

In the season’s final statistics, Porter led all Marshall defensive linemen with 44 tackles while finishing second on the team in tackles for loss (10.5) and tied for third in sacks (4.0).

The last five games of the season showed the progress that Porter made for the Herd defense under defensive coordinator Lance Guidry.

In those last five games, Porter registered half of his season’s tackles.

What makes it impressive, though, is where those tackles took place.

That last five-game stretch also saw Porter register 9.0 of his 10.5 tackles for loss while amassing 3.5 of his 4.0 sacks on the season, too.

That all culminated with Porter’s impressive New Orleans Bowl performance in which he made life hard on Louisiana quarterback Levi Lewis and the Ragin’ Cajun offense, which helped the Herd take a 21-16 lead after three quarters.

The performance wasn’t just about Porter’s play-making abilities, however. His energy and enthusiasm made him one of the team’s emotional leaders as well.

As Porter made plays, his energy and the celebration level from the entire defense elevated, which led the Herd back from a 10-0 deficit to the lead it took into the final quarter.

With Huff featuring a high-octane approach on both sides of the ball, it sets the stage for Porter to be one of the Herd’s most important players as the team looks to the 2022 season.

Grant Traylor is the sports editor of The Herald-Dispatch and covers Marshall athletics for HD Media. Follow him on Twitter @GrantTraylor.