The black clouds that hovered over Raymond James Stadium on Monday seemed to hang over the Marshall Thundering Herd just a little bit longer than they would’ve expected for their fourth appearance in the Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl.
On just the third play from scrimmage, a high Isaiah Green strike that Marshall wide receiver Obi Obialo let slip through his grasp was quickly scooped and taken back on a 39-yard pick-six by UCF safety Richie Grant. On the very next possession, senior tight end Armani Levias would scamper 45 yards on a run-after-catch before coughing up the football.
A pair of traded punts later, UCF found pay dirt for its first offensive score on the legs of junior Greg McCrae’s 26-yard run, his seventh and final touchdown of 2019. As if the rain couldn’t pour any harder, an errant pass behind the line on Marshall’s responding charge resulted in a 45-yard scoop and score for Knights freshman Tre’mon Morris-Brash.
The Thundering Herd would respond with a defensive score in their own right, thanks to Tampa native Micah Abraham’s interception return for six. Collecting his first career interception in Hillsborough County was somewhat meaningful, as Micah’s father Donnie was an NFL cornerback for the hometown Buccaneers, while his older brother Devin was an all-conference safety at the University of South Florida all playing in the same stadium.
Just a mere 133 yards of offense overshadowed by blunders in the elements resulted in the Knights being in full control of the scoreboard at halftime, 24-7 going into the break.
With the welcoming of the second half, the chains that kept offensive wheels from spinning in the first segment were forcibly removed by a combined 39 points scored between Marshall and UCF in the third quarter alone. Otis Anderson’s 4th & 7 draw score, a short yardage QB keeper, and a 75-yard silencer to Marlon Williams from Dillon Gabriel help put the finishing touches on what was a 260-yard, three-touchdown performance for the 6’0” freshman from Hawaii, helping him garner Gasparilla Bowl MVP honors, joining Blake Bortles as the only other UCF quarterback to do so. Dylan Barnas’ 30-yard FG was the lone score of the fourth, as UCF collected its second Gasparilla Bowl trophy 48-25 fairly easily in Florida.
Your 2019 #GasparillaBowl MVP @_dillongabriel_— Gasparilla Bowl (@GasparillaBowl) December 23, 2019
14-24, 260 yards passing, and 3 total touchdowns for @UCF_Football ! pic.twitter.com/2DXN99qyR2
A short Isaiah Green TD run inside the five, and a 50-yard field goal from C-USA Special Teams Player of the Year Justin Rohrwasser joined a Willie Johnson 70-yard touchdown bomb as the only good second half products to an abysmal performance overall for the Thundering Herd. Marshall tied their season high being charged with eight penalties, but C-USA MVP Brenden Knox was able to eclipse the 100-yard rushing mark for the seventh time in 2019, finishing with 103 yards on 26 touches.
This will go down as the fifth bowl win in Central Florida history, and their third consecutive season finishing with double digits in the win column. Marshall hits unfamiliar territory, as the program had boasted the best combined bowl win percentage in NCAA Division I football before kickoff. Head coach Doc Holliday now falls to 6-1 in the postseason, as Marshall tastes postseason defeat for the first time since 2004, when Bob Pruett’s Herd team fell 32-14 to Cincinnati in the Fort Worth Bowl.
- Marshall returns in 2020 with a road season opener at rival East Carolina.
- UCF will open its 2020 schedule at home versus Mack Brown and the North Carolina Tar Heels.