No. 16 Marshall races past UMass 51-10

  • UMass quarterback Will Koch (15) attempts a pass as the Minutemen take on Marshall during an NCAA football game on Saturday, Nov. 7, 2020, at Joan C. Edwards Stadium in Huntington, W.Va. (Sholten Singer/The Herald-Dispatch via AP) Sholten Singer | The Herald-Dispatch

  • Marshall running back Sheldon Evans (5) breaks through the Massachusetts defense on his way to a touchdown during an NCAA college football game Saturday, Nov. 7, 2020, in Huntington, W.Va. (Sholten Singer/The Herald-Dispatch via AP) Sholten Singer | The Herald-Dispatch

  • Marshall defensive lineman T.J. Johnson (15) forces Massachusetts running back Ellis Merriweather (7) to fumble on a carry during an NCAA college football game Saturday, Nov. 7, 2020, in Huntington, W.Va. (Sholten Singer/The Herald-Dispatch via AP) Sholten Singer | The Herald-Dispatch

  • Marshall running back Knowledge McDaniel (15) breaks up field on a carry he would take in for a score against UMass during an NCAA football game on Saturday, Nov. 7, 2020, at Joan C. Edwards Stadium in Huntington, W.Va. (Sholten Singer/The Herald-Dispatch via AP) Sholten Singer | The Herald-Dispatch

  • Marshall quarterback Grant Wells (8) looks to make a throw against Massachusetts during an NCAA college football game Saturday, Nov. 7, 2020, in Huntington, W.Va. (Sholten Singer/The Herald-Dispatch via AP) Sholten Singer | The Herald-Dispatch

  • Marshall running back Brenden Knox (20) pulls away from UMass line backer Mike Ruane (33) on his way to a 45-yard touchdown during an NCAA football game on Saturday, Nov. 7, 2020, at Joan C. Edwards Stadium in Huntington, W.Va. (Sholten Singer/The Herald-Dispatch via AP) Sholten Singer | The Herald-Dispatch

Staff Writer
Published: 11/8/2020 12:38:00 AM

Marshall ended seven of its 11 drives in the end zone and left the UMass football team in the rearview mirror, 51-10, on Saturday in Huntington, West Virginia.

The 16th-ranked Thundering Herd only punted twice, and one of their non-scoring drives was at the end of the game. They amassed 497 yards of offense, including 267 on the ground. It’s the second game in a row UMass allowed more than 250 yards on the ground.

Despite the lopsided score, UMass (0-2) showed progress from its season-opening defeat at Georgia Southern.

The Minutemen found the end zone and tied the game after getting behind.

Marshall (6-0) went ahead on a 45-yard Brenden Knox touchdown run just 1 minute, 32 seconds after kickoff. That capped a four-play, 75-yard drive where the Thundering Herd picked up first downs on their first two plays.

“Just trying to get a fast start, get the ball rolling early and keep it rolling,” Knox said. “It can be easy to overlook the work (the offensive line) does, all praise to them in every aspect all the time.”

UMass found its footing after that and a three-and-out. The Minutemen forced a punt then found inspiration on their second possession.

Freshman quarterback Will Koch unloaded a 37-yard pass to Taylor Edwards from a flea-flicker. The ball changed hands three times in the backfield: Koch handed it to Cam Roberson on a jet sweep before he flipped it to OC Johnson running the other way. Johnson pitched it back to Koch, who found Edwards down to the Marshall 14.

“As good as they were on defense, you knew you were going to have to trick ’em a couple times,” UMass coach Walt Bell said. “We were lucky enough to do that.”

After a facemask penalty put the ball on the 2, UMass called a timeout because of an alignment issue with an extra lineman. The timeout put the Minutemen on the right path. Koch threw a 2-yard score to Samuel Emilus with 7:01 left in the first quarter. It was his first touchdown pass and UMass’ first score of the season.

“To come out and execute it well, that’s a small victory,” Bell said.

That tied the game for the only time. The Thundering Herd scored 17 unanswered points behind Knox’s dominant first half. He gained 101 of his game-high 118 yards on 10 carries before halftime and added a second score with 2:02 remaining in the first to put the Thundering Herd ahead for good.

Knox’s second touchdown began a 17-0 Marshall run. UMass eventually answered with a field goal late in the second quarter.

The Minutemen set it up with more misdirection. Koch pitched the ball to Jared Cole on an option before the running back pulled up and threw it to Josiah Johnson for a 25-yard gain. Josiah Johnson was one of three quarterbacks that took snaps against Georgia Southern.

“He is a great athlete, and he’s a great special teams player and a great team player,” Bell said. “Being a great team player, he ended up playing 30-40 snaps at tight end, almost every snap of special teams. Really thankful for a player like Josiah who’s able to put his ego aside and do whatever it takes to help the football team.”

The drive stalled but Jeremy Martin nailed a 46-yard field goal to pull the Minutemen within 24-10 with 2:38 to halftime.

UMass never got any closer. The Thundering Herd took its next possession 74 yards in two minutes, capping the drive with a Sheldon Evans 11-yard touchdown run. That score put the game out of UMass’ reach at 31-10. Had the Minutemen held and ended the quarter down 14, they would have received the second half kickoff with a chance make it a one-score contest.

UMass went three-and-out to start the third quarter, and Marshall reeled off touchdowns on three consecutive drives.

“We had chances,” Bell said. “Scoreboard doesn’t say it, but when you’re building a program you look for a victory every chance you get.”

Marshall receiver Xavier Gaines hauled in a 13-yard touchdown catch from Grant Wells on the Thundering Herd’s first third-quarter possession. They held the ball for 5:12. UMass gave it back much quicker.

Koch, who finished 12 of 18 for 99 yards and a touchdown, was sacked by Jamare Edwards and fumbled. Darius Hodge returned it to the UMass 16, setting up another Wells to Gaines connection from 16 yards out. Gaines snagged the throw with one hand in the end zone. Marshall’s only misstep of the second half occurred on the extra point try. The holder didn’t field the snap cleanly, and UMass tackled kicker Shane Ciucci before he could do anything with it.

Koch played for one more series before he was replaced by redshirt freshman Garrett Dzuro.

“I thought for an 18-year-old with limited reps he did a decent job,” Bell said. “We’re going to watch the tape and find some areas to improve.”

Dzuro went 4-for-7 for 25 yards. Marshall pulled its starters for the final two drives.

UMass struggled with field position, beginning its drives on average from its own 21.5 yard line and never past the 35.

“We did a poor job on kickoff return. Field position early in the football game was key. Any time you play a great football game that can’t be one of your issues,” Bell said.

The Minutemen also gave up 93 yards on six penalties, including a personal foul.

“Those are combat penalties,” Bell said. “Those selfish penalties really stick out to me.”

The Minutemen will now face a battery of quarantines and tests when it returns to Amherst before it can begin preparing on the field for its Nov. 20 date at Florida Atlantic.

“A big positive was from some of these guys who’d never really lost before to see the hurt in their face, the despair and taking that energy, whether it’s good or bad and driving that toward your future success,” Bell said.

Kyle Grabowski can be reached at kgrabowski@gazettenet.com. Follow him on Twitter @kylegrbwsk.



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