Ben Fields: Special teams bad like weather
It was cold, wet and slippery Saturday night at Joan C. Edwards Stadium, which made for some unwanted adventure on special teams in UCF’s 54-17 wipeout of Marshall.
The Thundering Herd’s usual return man, Andre Snipes-Booker, was out because of an injury.
Kevin Grooms took Booker’s place on kickoff returns, and Tommy Shuler fielded UCF’s one punt.
Grooms’ opening kickoff return of 34 yards was the Herd’s longest of the season.
In the second quarter, Grooms fielded a kickoff on the 4-yard-line and slipped to his knee, downing the ball on the spot. Marshall nearly gave up a safety on the ensuing series.
On the kickoff after Marshall’s first score of the game, a field goal, UCF return man Quincy McDuffie took the ball 97 yards for a score. It marked the second time the Herd has allowed a kickoff return for a touchdown this month. Trey Watts of Tulsa returned one for six against Marshall on Oct. 6.
McDuffie struck again on the opening kick of the third quarter, taking the ball 98 yards for a score. It’s the first time in UCF history the Knights have had two kickoff returns for a touchdown in a game.
Marshall head coach Doc Holliday said the two returns were momentum breakers, and said players in position to make tackles simply didn’t execute.
“We had no issues last week (at Southern Miss), we ran down and were excellent,” Holliday said. “We didn’t change the kickoff this week. We lined up in the same place and kicked the ball to the same place, and (McDuffie) is a good returner, but you have to make that play when you’re there, and we didn’t do that.”
Marshall did block two extra points, one in the first half by Devon Meadows, the second in the third quarter by Marques Aiken. The two blocks make three on the season for the Herd. Jeremiah Taylor blocked an extra point against Purdue on Sept. 29.
NOT JUST BEAT, BUT BEAT UP: Marshall linebacker Devin Arrington and cornerback Keith Baxter both left the game in the first hallf injured.
Arrington seemed to suffer a leg injury in the first quarter, and did not return to the game. Baxter was clutching his right arm when he was walked off the field in the second quarter. He didn’t return in the first half, but made his way back onto the field in the second.
Cornerback Derrick Thomas was taken to the locker room in the third quarter and did not return.
Safety Dominick LeGande was injured on a UCF touchdown play in the third. He was replaced by linebacker Derek Mitchell. Holliday was seen consoling LeGrande on the bench on the stadium’s screen in the third quarter.
Holliday said he wouldn’t know until Sunday the status of players who left the game. He did say Snipes-Booker should be back in pads this week.
INTO THE BOOKS: One bounce that went Marshall’s way was a deflected pass from Rakeem Cato that found the arms of Antavious Wilson in the end zone near the end of the second quarter.
It was Wilson’s 14th career touchdown reception, tying him for 16th all time at Marshall.
CAM HENDERSON IN THE HOUSE: Cam Henderson was at the game. But, he was wearing gold and white.
UCF has a starting defensive end with the same name as the legendary former Marshall coach whose name is on Marshall’s basketball arena.
Henderson didn’t factor much in the contest, applying some pressure to Cato and getting in on some tackles, but did raise eyebrows when his name was announced.
MURRAY GOES FOR FOUR: UCF running back Latavius Murray had the first four-toucdown game of his career, rushing for three scores and catching another.
Murray started off with a 2-yard run in the first quarter, then broke off a 75-yard gallop for six in the second.
By halftime, he had 112 yards on 12 carries.
He found the end zone twice in the third quarter, once on a 20-yard pass, and again on a 42-yard run.
KNIGHTS PASSING D: UCF has not allowed more than 300 yards passing this season. The Knights defense held Cato to 298.
Ben Fields is a reporter for The Herald-Dispatch. Contact him at 304-526-2759 or email@example.com.