HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — Another kick in the pants.
One week after losing on a last-second field goal, Marshall failed to convert a potential game-tying PAT with 1:15 left in regulation as Southern Miss held on for a 28-27 victory Saturday in a Conference USA football contest on Senior Day at Joan C. Edwards Stadium.
The Thundering Herd (7-5, 4-4 CUSA) had played catch-up most of the afternoon against the Golden Eagles (8-4, 6-2), and the game appeared to be headed for its fourth tie of the day following MU senior Ryan Yurachek’s third touchdown grab with 75 seconds left.
Trailing 28-27 and looking for a tie, the Green and White sent their kicking team out for a standard point-after try.
The snap, however, was mishandled by place-holder Jackson White — who was ultimately never able to get the ball down for kicker Kaare Vedvik to boot.
White eventually left the pocket and scrambled backwards to his right, all while being chased by a handful of USM defenders. White, while being hit, flung a side-arm pass towards the end zone, but the pass was intercepted — allowing USM to maintain a one-point advantage.
Marshall’s attempt at an onside kick failed moments later, and the Black and Gold ran out the clock while sneaking out of Cabell County with the 28-27 triumph.
The Thundering Herd — who finished the day minus-2 in turnover differential — have now lost four of their last five decisions after starting the season 6-1. MU has also dropped two straight overall by three total points, as well as an eight-point difference in the last three setbacks.
It was a tough outcome to accept, but Marshall head coach Doc Holliday acknowledged the fact that he expected a 60-minute battle.
And, in the end, the Golden Eagles did just enough to win that war.
“We thought going in that it was going to be a fight … and that’s what it was,” Holliday said. “I thought it would come down to a couple plays and that’s what it did. Unfortunately, we turned the ball over three times and, when you do that, you can’t win a football game.
“It came down to the kick there at the end to send it into overtime, and obviously we didn’t get it done. Southern Miss played extremely well. We did some good things, but at the end of the day, they made one more play then we did.”
USM never trailed in the first half as the guests opened the scoring with an 11-play, 80-yard drive that ended with an Ito Smith 3-yard run. Parker Shaunfield added the first of four successful PAT kicks, giving Southern Miss a 7-0 lead 51 seconds into the second quarter.
After trading punts, the Herd put together a 10-play, 87-yard drive that tied the game at seven as Chase Litton found Willie Johnson on a 26-yard scoring pass with 5:15 left until halftime.
Southern Miss followed with a 6-play, 75-yard drive that was capped off by a Kwadra Griggs 16-yard TD pass to Korey Robertson, again putting the guests in front by a 14-7 margin with 3:42 remaining.
MU responded with a 36-yard kickoff return by Tyler King, plus a personal foul penalty gave the hosts possession at the USM 48.
The Herd needed only three plays to cover that ground as Yurachek hauled in a 3-yard pass from Litton at the 2:13 mark, tying the game at 14 headed into the intermission.
Both teams traded punts and turnovers to start the second half, giving Marshall the ball at the USM 26 following a fumble recovery by Brandon Drayton.
The Herd’s only lead came two plays later as Yurachek hauled in an 11-yard TD pass from Litton. Vedvik tacked on his final extra-point of the day for a 21-14 advantage with 11:31 left in the third canto.
The Golden Eagles answered with a 14-play, 93-yard drive that ended with a 3-yard TD pass from Griggs to Allenzae Staggers, tying the game at 21-all with 1:54 remaining in the third.
USM forced a fumble early in the fourth, then strung together a 5-play, 54-yard drive that was capped off by a Griggs to Staggers 9-yard TD pass for a 28-21 cushion with 9:44 left in regulation.
Both teams traded punts on the next four possessions, giving Marshall the ball on its own 42 with 2:22 remaining. The hosts needed six plays to cover 58 yards, with Yurachek hauling in a 9-yard pass from Litton for a 28-27 contest with 1:15 left.
Marshall outgained USM by a slim 382-371 overall margin in total yards and also claimed a 23-22 edge in first downs. Both teams missed a field goal apiece and each squad scored seven points off of four total turnovers.
King led the Herd ground game — which produced 74 yards on 26 attempts — with 48 yards on nine carries. Keion Davis added 31 yards on 15 tries.
Litton was 26-of-44 passing for 308 yards, throwing four touchdowns and one interception. Yurachek caught seven passes for 56 yards and three TDs, while Johnson had six grabs for 86 yards and a score.
Hyleck Foster also had five catches for 87 yards for Marshall, which played its third straight contest without leading wideout Tyree Brady.
Chase Hancock led the MU defense with 18 tackles, while Drayton added 12 stops and a fumble recovery. The Herd did not record a sack in the setback.
Smith led Southern Miss with 150 rushing yards and a score on 29 carries, while Griggs added 61 rushing yards to go along with a 16-of-35 passing performance for 170 yards and three scores.
Robertson led the guests with seven catches for 118 yards and a score. Staggers had four grabs for 27 yards and a pair of TD scores.
Kelsey Douglas led the Golden Eagle defense with nine tackles. Curtis Mikell and Allen Fails each recovered a fumble, while Tarvarius Moore also picked off a pass. Paxton Schrimsher had the lone sack for USM.
Marshall — which is one of 10 Conference USA schools that are bowl-eligible — now has to wait over a week to see where its next contest will be played … and who the Herd will face.
Holliday is a perfect 4-0 in bowl games at MU, so he is hoping that this group can get some things figured out between now and the holiday season.
“I like this football team a lot. They’ve played extremely hard, but they’ve got to get smarter and take care of the ball. This team has never been as issue as far as showing up and playing, they’ve done that all year. I’m proud of them for that, but unfortunately the last couple weeks have been a tough couple weeks,” Holliday said. “These guys are resilient and these are tough kids. They’ve worked extremely hard. The leadership on this team will make sure they come back and prepare like we do for bowls games and get better.”
Bryan Walters can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2101.