Middle Tennessee beats Marshall on final play
MURFREESBORO, Tenn. — For the first time this season, the opposition was able to get to Marshall University’s defense often.
And this time, a fourth-quarter rally wasn’t quite enough for the Thundering Herd.
Tavarres Jefferson caught a 9-yard touchdown pass from Logan Kilgore with no time remaining to give Middle Tennessee a 51-49 football victory over Marshall in front of 19,898 fans at Floyd Stadium in Murfreesboro, Tenn.
On the drive, Marshall had a pair of interception drops while Kilgore found a way to convert two third downs and a fourth down to keep the drive alive.
Jefferson had four catches for 61 yards on the drive, including an 18-yard pass on fourth-and-5 to keep the drive alive before his touchdown catch capped a 13-play, 79-yard drive to win it.
It appeared Marshall would pull out the game with another amazing road comeback.
Once again, Marshall (4-3 season, 2-1 Conference USA) found itself trailing by double-digits in the fourth quarter on the road after Middle Tennessee took a 45-35 lead on a 6-yard pass from Kilgore to Corey Carmichael with 13:17 left.
However, the Herd didn’t panic, going on a 15-play, 82-yard drive capped by Kevin Grooms’ 1-yard run.
The Herd then got an important defensive stop before Essray Taliaferro took the ball seven times on an 8-play drive, rushing in from three yards out to give Marshall a 49-45 lead — its first lead since the second quarter — with 2:29 left.
Middle Tennessee (4-4 overall, 2-2 C-USA) assumed control of the contest in the third quarter, utilizing its ground game to take a 38-35 lead into the fourth quarter.
The Blue Raiders rushed for 154 yards in the third quarter and, at one point, ran 21 consecutive plays on the ground during the frame.
Touchdown runs of 1 yard by Jordan Parker and Kilgore preceded a 37-yard field goal by Cody Clark to account for the Blue Raiders’ 17 points in the third period.
Marshall got a 1-yard scoring run by Kevin Grooms while Deandre Reaves’ 83-yard kickoff return set up Cato’s 6-yard touchdown pass to Tommy Shuler to keep the Herd within a score entering the fourth.
The teams went into the locker room at halftime tied, 21-21, after poor execution on both sides by Marshall in the final two minutes.
The Herd took possession at its own 8 with 2:18 left and got a first-down run by Kevin Grooms, but followed with a short run and two incompletions with one being a dropped pass. The end result was Middle Tennessee gaining possession with 1:29 left in the half at its own 40.
Marshall forced a pair of third downs, but each time Reggie Whatley took delayed handoffs for gains of 19 and 28 yards. The big gains set up Logan Kilgore’s 16-yard touchdown pass to Christian Collis, which tied it with 27 seconds left before halftime.
Prior to that, Marshall had taken its first lead by scoring 14 consecutive points based largely on the play of tight end Gator Hoskins.
Hoskins made an acrobatic catch to haul in a 6-yard scoring pass from Cato as Marshall cashed in on a fumble by Middle Tennessee’s Jeremiah Bryson to take a 21-14 lead.
It came after Hoskins had set up the tying score from Taliaferro with a 30-yard reception that was initially ruled a touchdown before it was deemed Hoskins was down a foot short of the goal line.
Marshall’s special teams struggled in the first half as the Herd allowed a blocked punt touchdown for the second time this season. Chris Brown came untouched from the right side and smothered Tyler Williams’ attempt before falling on it in the end zone to put Middle Tennessee up 14-7.
The Herd also had a fumbled punt return, but Marshall’s Darryl Roberts intercepted a Kilgore pass to counter the turnover.
Middle Tennessee opened the scoring just four minutes into the contest when Kilgore connected with Kyle Griswould on a 16-yard touchdown pass to give the Blue Raiders the lead.
Cato immediately countered as he connected with Jazz King for a 39-yard score to extend his streak of games with a touchdown pass to 25 consecutive.
MT: Kyle Griswoud 16-yard TD pass from Logan Kilgore (Cody Clark kick), 11:03.
MAR: Jazz King 39-yard TD pass from Rakeem Cato (Justin Haig kick), 8:47.
MT: Chris Brown blocked punt recovery in end zone (Cody Clark), 5:13.
MAR: Essray Taliaferro 1-yard TD run (Justin Haig kick), 14:37.
MAR: Gator Hoskins 6-yard TD pass from Rakeem Cato (Justin Haig kick), 3:57.
MT: Christian Collis 16-yard TD pass from Logan Kilgore (Cody Clark kick), :27.
MT: Jordan Parker 1-yard TD run (Cody Clark kick), 12:37.
MAR: Kevin Grooms 1-yard TD run (Justin Haig kick), 11:14.
MT: Logan Kilgore 1-yard TD run (Cody Clark kick), 9:37.
MT: Cody Clark 37-yard FG, 3:54.
MAR: Tommy Shuler 6-yard TD pass from Rakeem Cato (Justin Haig kick), 2:39.
MT: Corey Carmichal 6-yard TD pass from Logan Kilgore (Cody Clark kick), 13:17.
MAR: Kevin Grooms 1-yard TD run (Justin Haig kick), 8:17.
MAR: Essray Taliaferro 2-yard TD run (Justin Haig kick), 2:29.
MT: Tavarres Jefferson 9-yard TD pass from Logan Kilgore, :00.
FINAL: MIDDLE TENNESSEE 51, MARSHALL 49.
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