HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — A generous portion of Rice went into this unsavory serving.
The Marshall football team committed five turnovers and was shut out for the first time since the 2000 campaign following a 20-0 setback to visiting Rice on Saturday afternoon in a Conference USA matchup at Joan C. Edwards Stadium.
The previously unbeaten Thundering Herd (7-1, 4-1 CUSA East) — who entered the game ranked 15th in both the Associated Press and Coaches polls — was held to a season-low 80 yards rushing while surrendering over 100 yards of rushing for the first time all season.
The Owls (2-2, 2-2 CUSA West) produced five interceptions and finished the day plus-4 in turnover differential while also churning out 14 points off of those miscues.
The hosts still outgained Rice by a 245-213 edge in total yards of offense and claimed a 19-17 advantage in first downs, but the Herd never pushed the ball any closer than the Rice 17-yard line.
In fact, from its 10 offensive possessions, MU had only four drives last more than six plays … and only one covered more than 58 yards. The Green and White also had four consecutive 3-and-out drives to start the second half, amassing three turnovers and only eight yards of total offense from those dozen plays.
The Silver and Blue, conversely, stuffed a pair of Collin Riccitelli field goals in between a pair of touchdowns, ultimately allowing RU to hand the Herd their first shutout loss since a 42-0 setback at Toledo back on Oct. 14, 2000.
Marshall’s opening drive stalled at the Rice 18 due to a loss of downs, but the defense forced a punt and got the ball back at its own 28. Four plays later, however, Treshawn Chamberlin picked off a Grant Wells pass and returned it to the MU 47.
Ten plays later, Jordan Myers gave the Owls a permanent lead of 7-0 after a 1-yard run with 1:06 remaining in the opening frame.
Riccitelli tacked on a 39-yard field goal at the 5:49 mark of the second frame for a 10-0 edge, but he also missed a 23-yard attempt wide left at the very end of the first half.
Riccitelli converted a 40-yard field goal at the 9:24 mark of the third period, capping a 4-play, 5-yard drive that made it a 13-0 contest.
Wells — who had been picked off only four times through the first seven games of the year — threw his third interception at the 7:50 mark as Naeem Smith hauled in an errant pass and went 36 yards down the sideline for a pick-6 that ultimately wrapped up the 20-point outcome.
Marshall was also hampered by yellow laundry after being penalized eight times for 80 yards, half of which resulted in drive-sustaining first downs for Rice. The Owls were flagged only five times for 35 yards.
Brenden Knox paced the MU ground attack with 76 rushing yards on 20 attempts, with Wells adding four yards on eight totes while also completing 18-of-35 passes for 165 yards. Wells was also sacked three times to go along with the 5-interception day.
Talik Keaton led the Marshall wideouts with seven catches for 48 yards. Eli Neal and Darius Hodge paced the Herd with 15 and 14 tackles respectively.
Ari Broussard led Rice with 62 rushing yards on 19 attempts, followed by Khalan Griffin with 56 yards on 17 tries. JoVoni Johnson completed 10-of-14 passes for 86 yards, while Jake Bailey had a team-best seven catches for 57 yards.
Blaze Alldredge paced the Owls with 10 tackles and also joined Chamberlin, Smith, Josh Pearcy and Andrew Bird with an interception apiece.
Marshall still leads the all-time series by a 5-3 count, but Rice managed to end a 2-game losing skid against the Herd. MU also had its 9-game home winning streak and 9-game CUSA home winning streak snapped.
It was announced late Saturday the Marshall will not travel to Florida International next weekend due to a COVID-19 outbreak with the Panthers.
The Herd, instead, will host Charlotte at 6:30 p.m. Friday night in the CUSA regular season finale for both programs.
Marshall was originally scheduled to play the 49ers on Nov. 21, but the game was postponed at the time because of a COVID-19 outbreak with Charlotte.
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Bryan Walters can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2101.