A pair of special team mistakes and a pick-six interception were too much to overcome for visiting Miami as the RedHawks fell to Marshall, 31-26, Saturday.
It was a game with drama from beginning to end. Marshall’s the game. He later . Keion Davis returned the opening kickoff 99 yards to start. . .
Chris Jackson stretched the Marshall lead to 28-13 when he intercepted Miami quarterback Gus Ragland and returned it 72 yards for a touchdown.
Miami responded by driving 75 yards in nine plays, culminating the drive with a Ragland toss over the middle to tight end Ryan Smith. That reduced Miami’s deficit to eight points until Kaare Vedvik converted a 27-yard field goal to put the hosts up 31-10 with 11:31 remaining in the final stanza.
Miami put together another long drive, once again finishing the trip with a Ragland-to-Smith pass (11 yards). Down 31-26 with 8:01 remaining, the RedHawks seemed to have enough time if they defense could keep Marshall off the scoreboard.
It did, holding the Herd to a three-and-out. Marshall, however, rose to the occasion, as well. The visitors were facing fourth and 15 with a couple minutes left when Miami punted.
Unable to get a firt down, the Herd got off a punt that forced the RedHawks to start a final drive with 53 seconds left and no timeouts. They reached the Marshall 41 with time for just one more play. Ragland escaped pressure and heaved a long toss into the end zone. It was batted away by Marshall, preserving its opening night victory.
“Two kickoff returns and a pick six cost us the game,” Miami head coach Chuck Martin said.”Other than that, there was a heck of a lot of positives.
“Our defense held them to 10 points…(and) our offense basically puts 27 (points) on the board.
Miami actually outgained Marshall in total yards, 429-267 and held advantages in first downs (25-15) and time of possession (35:44-24:16). But little of that is reflected in three of the Herd’s scores.
“We don’t throw a pick six. We don’t give up two returns for touchdowns (and) we win the game – probably by a couple scores.
Ragland completed 23 of 44 passes for 298 yards and two touchdowns, with one costly interception, while using his mobility to escape most of Marshall’s pressure.
James Gardner caught eight balls for 111 yards, while Smith had seven for 98 yards and two TDs. Jared Murphy contributed some big chain-moving catches among his five receptions for 69 yards.
Alonzo Smith carried 13 times for 59 yards, while Kenny Young owned 37 yards on nine trips. The RedHawks totaled 131 yards on the ground.
On the defensive side, senior corner Heath Harding scooped up a fumble and returned it to the Marshall three to set up a Ragland one-yrd TD run early in the second period. Joshua Allen made a leaping interception in the Miami end zone late in the period to stop a promising Marshall drive that followed a RedHawk fumble. Brad Koenig recorded 13 tackles (6.0 solo).
Junior QB Chase Litton completed 20 of 30 passes for 208 yards with one TD to Tyre Brady and the one interceptions.
Freshman Willie Jackson led Herd receivers with seven catches for 88 yards.
Junior Trey Rodriguez carried 18 times for 54 yards to lead Marshall rushes, while Brandon Drayton and Anthony Anderson combined for 22 tackles to pace the defense.