CINCINNATI, Ohio — They say good things come in threes.
The Thundering Herd can attest to that adage.
Marshall forced three turnovers, which ultimately turned into three touchdown catches by Ryan Yurachek, and the Herd matched last year’s win total on Saturday night following an impressive 38-21 victory over host Cincinnati in a non-conference football contest at historic Nippert Stadium.
The Thundering Herd (3-1) led wire-to-wire in their final tuneup before Conference USA play begins as the guests stormed out to a 24-0 halftime lead and never looked back while snapping a seven-game losing skid on the road.
The Green and White were simply dominant in that decisive first half as the Bearcats (2-3) mustered only three first downs and possessed the ball for 5:39 of the opening 30 minutes of action.
UC, however, had the first — and its only — bright spot of the first half after forcing a Marshall fumble on the second play of the game.
The Bearcats followed with a two-play drive that also resulted in a fumble, which was scooped up by Frankie Hernandez at the MU 34.
The Thundering Herd followed with a 10-play, 66-yard drive that ended with a 14-yard touchdown pass from Chase Litton to Yurachek at the 8:39 mark, allowing the guests to take an early 7-0 advantage.
After three consecutive punts on the ensuing possessions, Marshall was able to add to its lead with 12:55 remaining until halftime as Kaare Vedvik booted a successful 26-yard field goal — capping a 15-play, 73-yard drive that gave MU a 10-0 cushion.
The Herd forced a pair of consecutive three-and-outs around a missed Vedvik field goal attempt early in the second canto, but the guests strung together a 10-play, 68-yard scoring drive that resulted in a Litton 27-yard TD pass to Willie Johnson at the 1:38 mark for a 17-0 advantage.
On the ensuing kickoff, Thomas Geddis received the kick six yards deep in the end zone and hesitated briefly before deciding to try a return. Artis Johnson knocked the ball free and Nazeeh Johnson recovered the loose ball, giving the Herd possession at the UC 15 with 1:34 left until halftime.
Litton found Yurachek on a 15-yard scoring pass on the very next play, allowing the Green and White to take a commanding 24-point advantage into the halftime locker room.
The Thundering Herd held a 17-3 edge in first downs and had a sizable 202-75 advantage in total offense at the break, as well as a plus-1 margin in turnover differential.
The second half proved to be nothing more than a formality as both programs traded scores the rest of the way, with Marshall’s lead never dipping below 17 points.
Gerrid Doaks capped a 15-play, 75-yard drive with a two-yard run on Cincinnati’s opening second half possession, allowing the hosts to close to within 24-7 with 9:05 left in the third.
The Bearcats forced a punt later in the period, but the ball bounced off of a UC player before rolling around in the open field. D’Andre Wilson recovered the fumble for Marshall at the hosts’ 31-yard line with 1:12 left.
Litton needed only one play and six seconds to turn that final turnover into points after finding Yurachek on a 31-yard TD pass, allowing MU to increase its lead back out to 31-7 with 1:06 remaining in the third.
Michael Warren capped a seven-play, 78-yard drive with a 27-yard TD run at the 14:45 mark of the fourth for a 31-14 contest, but the Herd responded right back with a nine-play, 75-yard drive that ended with a Keion Davis one-yard run for a 31-14 lead with 9:14 remaining.
Javan Hawes hauled in an 18-yard touchdown pass from Hayden Moore with 3:03 left to wrap up the 17-point outcome.
Marshall — which had lost three straight to the Bearcats before Saturday — picked up only the program’s second-ever win in the Queen City, with the first coming during a 27-9 decision back in 1938. Cincinnati still leads the all-time series with an 8-4-1 overall mark.
The Thundering Herd finished the night with a slim 22-21 edge in first downs and gained only 17 more yards in total offense (366-349), but the guests more than sealed the deal on this triumph before halftime.
Marshall finished the evening with 133 rushing yards on 44 carries, with Davis leading the charge with 93 yards on 20 totes.
Litton completed 21-of-34 passes for 233 yards, which included four touchdowns and zero interceptions. Litton has thrown a TD pass in 25 consecutive games, which is currently second in the nation in FBS behind only Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield (30).
Yurachek — who has now caught at least one pass in 33 straight games — hauled in seven passes for a career-best 77 yards to lead the wideouts. It was also the first multi-touchdown game for Yurachek in his three-plus years as a starter.
Chris Jackson and Chase Hancock paced the MU defense with seven tackles apiece. Neither team recorded a sack in the game.
Vedvik — who missed a 42-yard field goal attempt in the second quarter — was a perfect 5-for-5 on PAT kicks to go along with his successful 26-yard field goal. Vedvik also averaged 43.4 yards on five punts.
Doaks led the Bearcat ground attack with 55 yards on 10 carries, followed by Warren with 49 yards on five attempts.
Moore finished the night 22-of-45 passing for 211 yards, which included one TD and zero picks. Josiah Deguara led the UC wideouts with four catches for 30 yards.
Perry Young led the Bearcat defense with 13 tackles, followed by Carter Jacobs with nine and Jaylyin Minor with eight stops.
The Thundering Herd’s last road win prior to Saturday came on Oct. 31, 2015, during a 34-10 decision at Charlotte.
Marshall will begin Conference USA play on Saturday when it travels to Charlotte for a 6 p.m. kickoff.
Bryan Walters can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2101.
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