Marshall football turned in its best defensive performance of the season to ground the league's best offense in Southern Miss, en route to a 31-10 win Friday night at Joan C. Edwards Stadium.
Marshall's defense forced six turnovers—five fumbles and an interception—broke up 15 passes and recorded 17 quarterback hurries while holding the Golden Eagles to their lowest scoring production of the season.
Evan McKelvey led the Herd with 10 tackles, two for loss, and a forced fumble. Tiquan Lang added 10 tackles and Corey Tindal had nine with a sack.
Southern Miss' 10 points are the fewest it has scored this season and the first time it has failed to score a single point in the second half.
"That's about as good a defensive performance as I've seen anywhere," Holliday said after his team dominated the second half "They (Southern Miss) gained some yards, a lot of it late in the game, but when they (Marshall defense) had to make a play they made a play.
Southern Miss took the first lead of the game after Nick Mullens found Michael Thomas from six yards and a 7-0 lead. The Golden Eagles traveled 89 yards in nine plays while eating up 4:35 off the clock on the scoring drive.
The lead would be short lived for the Golden Eagles after an unsportsmanlike penalty and a 33-yard kickoff return by Remi Watson set the Herd up at the Southern Miss 37. Seven plays later, Devon Johnson returned to the end zone in his first game back since Kent State to tie the contest at 7-7 after one quarter.
Both teams traded turnovers to open the second quarter, with McKelvey forcing a Southern Miss fumble and Chase Litton fired his third interception of the season, setting up Southern Miss in Marshall territory.
Jalen Richard rumbled for 31 yards to the Herd 16 but Southern Miss had to settle for a Parker Shaunfield 33-yard field goal and a 10-7 lead.
The mirror image half continued with Marshall's Nick Smith splitting the uprights from 34 yards, tying the game at 10 with 8:36 left in the quarter.
Mullens led his Golden Eagles to the Marshall four, but the Herd's defense forced another field goal attempt and the results were not in favor of the visitors.
Shaunfield lined up a 21-yard attempt only to have it blocked by Ryan Bee. Taj Letman recovered the ball at the Herd 33 and Southern Miss ended a 13-play, 71-yard drive with nothing to show for it.
Bee's field-goal attempt block was the 24th kick blocked by the Herd in Holliday's 5-plus seasons as coach.
Johnson dashed the Herd to the Golden Eagles 29-yard line on runs of 16, 10, 11 and 1 respectively. Litton finished off the 9-play drive with a 3-yard touchdown pass to Ryan Yurachek as the Herd headed to the locker room leading 17-10.
Out of the locker room this season, both teams have had their best offensive and defensive quarters, but the Herd defensive pressure would be more than the Golden Eagles could handle.
Southern Miss' first offensive series of the half stalled out at the Marshall 30 and Litton took advantage of the early opportunity, hitting Deandre Reaves for a 61-yard touchdown and a 24-10 lead. The pass and reception was the longest of the season for both Litton and Reaves.
The ensuing drive brought more shortcomings for the Golden Eagles after Gary Thompson's sack of Mullens forced another turnover, as Bee recovered the ball at the Herd 35.
Marshall failed to cash in offensively on the Southern Miss turnover but the defense would handle the next turnover itself.
Tyler Williams pinned the Golden Eagles on their own 7-yard line and three plays later, Thompson forced another sack leading to a Jarquez Samuel scoop and score and a 31-10 Marshall lead.
It was the first fumble recovery for a touchdown by a member of the Herd since Ra'Shawde Myers achieved the feat last year at UAB.
Trailing by 21 points entering the fourth quarter, Southern Miss' woes continued with its drives ending in two turnover on downs, a Rodney Allen interception and a D.J. Hunter forced fumble to end the game.
"It was big, getting a lot of pressure on (Mullens)," Lang said of the Golden Eagles' junior who was 29-of-58 for 314 yards with one interception. "Once we started hitting him, he just started just throwing it, and I knew right then we'd gotten into his head and it was going to be a long football game."
Southern Miss converted third down seven out of 19 tries but only converted fourth down only once in the contest.
"The bottom line is that (Southern Miss) offense moved the football a lot against Nebraska and Mississippi State," Holliday said. "That quarterback had been sensational, but I thought we put a lot of pressure on him. When he wasn't getting sacked, he was getting hit quite a bit and that was good to see."
Offensively, Marshall struggled mightily as it failed to gain 300 total yards of offense. Litton finished 11-21 for 163 yards with two touchdowns and an interception.
"Offensively, we were good for the most part," Holliday said. "We had the one turnover and that's one too many. Our freshman quarterback is starting to grow up. He's 4-0, which is all that matters. That's just a great team win."
Litton has 10 touchdowns in his four starts -- a Herd record, topping the nine in the first four starts by Byron Leftwich and Stan Hill. Litton's 61-yard TD connection with Reaves was Marshall's longest pass play since Rakeem Cato hit Angelo Jean-Louis with 77- and 61-yarders in a win over Ohio last September.
The Herd travels to Boca Raton, Florida next Saturday for a matchup with Florida Atlantic.