Marshall football: Herd couldn't stop Tulsa running game
HUNTINGTON - Tulsa's offensive game plan heading into Saturday's game versus Marshall was a surprise to no one - Conference USA's top rushing team would try to control the game on the ground.
The Thundering Herd knew it. It just couldn't stop it.
The Golden Hurricane rushed for 250 yards on 53 carries to beat Marshall 45-38 on Saturday. Tulsa relied on its running game so much its passing game nearly disappeared. Quarterback Cody Green threw for just 90 yards and a touchdown on 9-of-17 passing. It was the Hurricane's lowest single game passing output of the season by 108 yards.
"They came into the football game and they were going to take the game out of the quarterback's hands," Holliday said. "They came in to run the football and they did."
This season, it wasn't Ja'Terian Douglas who dominated the Herd. The Tulsa junior rushed for 194 yards on 10 carries last year versus Marshall, but gained just 31 yards on eight carries Saturday. This year was a two-headed monster of junior Trey Watts and senior Alex Singleton.
Watts rushed for 111 yards on 18 carries against Marshall, while Singleton gained 94 yards on 16 carries and scored three touchdowns. Singleton, a 260-pound bruiser, converted three fourth downs himself versus Marshall. On the first, a fourth and 1 in the first quarter, he barreled 48 yards for a touchdown. On the second, a fourth and 3 in the second quarter, he gained three yards to preserve a drive that ultimately led to a touchdown.
On the third, a fourth and 2 in the third quarter, he gained six yards to keep alive a drive that ended in another touchdown. It was Singleton's fifth three-touchdown performance of his career.
"We didn't tackle well and get him on the ground," Holliday said. "We have to do a better job of that."
Tulsa's rushing day added to Marshall's difficulties in stopping the run this season. The Herd allowed an average of 224.8 rushing yards per game entering Saturday's contest. That average is now 229 yards per game, ranking the Herd 112th in the Football Bowl Subdivision.
Safety Dominick LeGrande said there wasn't just one aspect of Tulsa's running game that made the Hurricane tough to stop.
"I couldn't really put my finger on it," he said. "It was just the flow of the game. They were strong running the ball and that's what they did."
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ONE OF Marshall's biggest offensive plays came when quarterback Rakeem Cato was on the sideline. Cato slowly walked off the field wincing in the fourth quarter after taking what looked like a shot to the groin. Redshirt freshman Blake Frohnapfel took a few warm-up throws and entered the game, staring at a third-and-11 situation.
But Frohnapfel found running back Kevin Grooms for a 12-yard pass and a first down. Cato returned to the game on the next play and completed the drive, hitting Antavious Wilson for a 32-yard touchdown that gave Marshall a 37-37 lead.
"They were just saying we needed to make a play," Grooms said. "I felt like, with them giving the call to me, I'm a playmaker. I wanted to win and I wanted to keep the chains moving so my team could go down and score. When Cato got hurt and put Froh in, I still had the same confidence."
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THE HERD saw a substitute punter at the end of the third quarter. Starter Tyler Williams limped off the field after being on the receiving end of a running-into-the-kicker penalty. He had only punted once before that Saturday, for 38 yards. Placekicker Justin Haig replaced him and booted his punt 41 yards to Tulsa's 23.
Holliday said after the game that Williams should be fine, and he'd be a tough player to lose. The freshman averages 46.3 yards on 19 punts, with seven travelling at least 50 yards and nine landing inside the opponent's 20-yard line. He'd rank seventh in the FBS in punting average, but does not have enough punts this season to qualify.
Contact sportswriter Derek Redd at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-1712. His blog is at blogs.dailymail.com/marshall.