CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Sometimes the best offense is a really good defense.
Visiting Marshall held Charlotte to just 80 rushing yards and 212 yards of total offense — both season-bests — while opening Conference USA play on a solid note Saturday during a 14-3 victory at Jerry Richardson Stadium in the Tar Heel State.
The Thundering Herd (4-1, 1-0 CUSA East) pitched a defensive shutout in the first half for a third consecutive week while also producing a season-high 212 rushing yards en route to their third straight victory of the 2017 campaign.
Marshall’s ground-and-pound approach helped the guests maintain possession for 36:37 of the 60-minute affair, but the Green and White needed a pair of aerial strikes to find the scoreboard.
Both teams traded punts on each of their first two possessions, but the Herd found some magic on their third drive of the opening canto.
MU covered 64 yards on four plays, with Chase Litton finding Tyre Brady on a 37-yard touchdown pass at the 6:25 mark for an early 7-0 advantage — which ultimately held up until halftime.
After forcing a 49ers punt to start the second half, Marshall struck gold again as Brady capped a seven-play, 72-yard drive with an 11-yard grab on a Litton pass at the 9:14 mark — giving MU its largest lead of the night at 14-0.
Charlotte (0-6, 0-2) followed with nine-play, 62-yard drive on the ensuing possession, which led to points after a successful Nigel Macauley 30-yard field goal with 5:20 left in the third — making it a 14-3 contest.
Neither team scored the rest of the way, allowing the Herd to pick up their first CUSA road win in its last seven outings.
Eight of the 49ers’ 11 offensive possessions resulted in punts. Chris Jackson picked off a Charlotte pass in the first half that was almost immediately fumbled back to the hosts. The 49ers also missed a 33-yard field goal attempt on their final drive of the night.
The Thundering Herd claimed a 23-9 edge in first downs and finished the night minus-1 in turnover differential. Marshall outgained the hosts by a nearly 2-to-1 edge in total yards of offense with a 404-212 overall advantage.
Keion Davis led the Marshall ground game with 122 yards on 23 carries, followed by Tyler King with 74 yards on 13 attempts.
Litton had four scrambles for 21 yards and also completed 19-of-28 passes for 192 yards to go along with the two scores.
Ryan Yurachek led the MU receiving corps with seven catches for 52 yards, while Brady hauled in six passes for 88 yards and a pair of scores. Davis also hauled in three passes for 24 yards.
The Green and White held UNCC to just 3-of-14 on third down plays and also recorded the only two sacks in the game. Ryan Bee had a solo sack that resulted in a 9-yard loss, while Juwon Young and Artis Johnson teamed up on a 2-yard loss.
Malik Gant led the Herd defenders with 11 total tackles, followed by Brandon Drayton with nine tackles and Chase Hancock with seven stops. The guests also recorded five tackles for losses for 18 total yards.
MU placekicker Kaare Vedvik — who made both of his extra-point boots — missed a 39-yard field goal attempt on the guests’ first drive of the second quarter.
Benny LeMay led the hosts with 38 rushing yards on nine carries. Hassan Klugh was 10-of-21 passing for 132 yards to go with a pick. Klugh also had eight carries for just four yards on the ground.
Workpeh Kofa paced UNCC with four catches for 38 yards, while Trent Bostick hauled in two passes for 51 yards.
Ben Deluca led Charlotte with 17 total tackles. Tommy Doctor and Nate Mullen also recovered a fumble apiece.
The Herd returns to action at 2:30 p.m. Saturday when it hosts Old Dominion on Homecoming at Joan C. Edwards Stadium.
NOTE: Former Point Pleasant standout Cody Mitchell earned his first collegiate start at tight end for the Thundering Herd. Mitchell was not targeted for a pass, but does have five kickoff returns this year for 48 yards — a 9.6 average. … The Marshall offensive line has not allowed a sack in the last three games while also leading the way for a pair of 100-yard rushing efforts. King gained 101 yards against Kent State at the beginning of the current win streak.
Bryan Walters can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2101.