Well, that was more interesting than we all thought it would be.
Last year's road game woes reared their ugly head at Legion Field. The Herd seemed to not realize that they would be getting their best shot from the Blazers and did not play their best game. The Marshall special teams and offensive line struggled all day. Justin Haig missed a chip shot field goal on the Herd's first drive after Cato missed a wide open Eric Frohnapfel. Kickoff man Kaare Vedvik had two kickoffs go out of bounds, which led to UAB points on the latter drive. Marshall's offensive line played an inconsistent game, getting flagged for numerous false starts and giving up sacks and poor protection against the blitz.
Outside the Marshall offensive line, the Herd offense did a great job moving the football but did not finish drives. Rakeem Cato finished the day 20-38 with 284 yards, 2 touchdowns, and 1 poorly thrown interception. Devon Johnson ran for 171 yards on 20 carries, but had a costly fumble going into the endzone on a potential Marshall scoring drive. Tommy Shuler was the only receiver for the Herd to have over 2 receptions, ending up with 10 catches, 132 yards, and 1 touchdown. Marshall's offense just shot themselves in the foot with penalties and not finishing promising drives, finishing the 2nd half without any points.
While the offense sputtered, Marshall's defense kept the game in check and got the go ahead touchdown. UAB was able to get production on the ground to the tune of over 200 yards, including 168 from stud running back Jordan Howard. Through the air, Cody Clements was efficient, completing 15 of 26 passes for 141 yards, though he wasn't helped by receivers dropping passes in the open. The only mistake Clements made was in the 4th quarter, where Arnold Blackmon broke through the UAB offensive line and stripped Clements, where Ra'Shawde Myers fell on it for the go-ahead touchdown.
When It Was Over
This game wasn't near over until the Herd was able to stop Jordan Howard on UAB's final drive. UAB converted two 4th downs on the drive, but was unable to convert the third, as Jermaine Holmes shot through the UAB offensive line to stuff Howard. UAB used their final timeout, but two more knees ended the game and moved the Herd to 11-0.
Player of the Game
In trying to pick the player of the game, I couldn't pick just one player. The entire Herd defense played a great game, but the front 7 was able to step up and make the big plays late. Arnold Blackmon got the strip sack that Ra'Shawde Myers recovered for the touchdown. Jermaine Holmes finished with 13 tackles and got the 4th down stop that gave the Herd the victory. Neville Hewitt led all players with 17 tackles and ½ a sack. Steve Dillon finished with 11 tackles and ½ a sack. The front 7 for the Herd is the strength of this defense, and, against the power running game of UAB, bent, but did not break against Howard, DJ Vinson, and company.
Where We Go From Here
For the Thundering Herd, a Friday home tilt against the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers will wrap up their regular season. This will be a final game for the Herd to tune up for the winner of the Rice-Louisiana Tech game in the Conference USA title game. A win for the Herd guarantees the C-USA title game will be played in Huntington. A loss means, if Louisiana Tech can beat Rice, a tiebreaker comes into effect for the hosting site.
On the other hand, the poor performance against the Blazers will not do much to help a team trying to break into the top 25. While UAB has been a vastly improved team over the course of the season, at the end of the day, they are a 5-6 team in C-USA. Plus, if the Herd couldn't move in after last week's losses at the bottom of the poll, I doubt the Herd finds a way to break into the poll. I don't think the close game affects Marshall's ranking amongst Group of 5 schools. Remember, Boise had to come back against New Mexico and San Diego State and Colorado State has played tight games with Wyoming and San Jose State.
For UAB, today had to make an impression on the board of trustees and did just that. UAB pushed a top 20 team to the limit, had a good, passionate crowd by their standards, and have gotten the exposure because Marshall being pushed has gotten the exposure MU hasn't had all season (funny the way that works).
I think UAB is still in good position to become bowl eligible against Southern Miss next week. Bill Clark, even though he argues flags more than any coach I've seen in a while, is a very good coach who has gotten the Blazers to great point in his first season. Hopefully today will help show the UA Board of Trustees that UAB football is a profitable investment.