HUNTINGTON — Everything that could go wrong did go wrong for Marshall’s football team on Saturday.
Cincinnati dominated from the onset, jumping to a 28-point halftime lead and never looking back in a 52-14 win over Marshall in front of 32,192 fans at Joan C. Edwards Stadium.
“Obviously, that’s a game that we didn’t play very well in any of the three phases,” Marshall head coach Doc Holliday said. “I think Cincinnati is an excellent football team. Give them credit. They came in here and took it to us from the beginning of the game.”
With the loss, Marshall ends non-conference play at 2-2 and starts Conference USA action next week.
The 13th-largest crowd in Joan C. Edwards Stadium history went home disappointed as Cincinnati looked far superior to the Herd on this afternoon.
The game looked like a flipped script from the last time the teams met when Marshall jumped all over Cincinnati early en route to a 38-21 road victory.
Cincinnati is known more for its rushing attack, but quarterback Desmond Ridder picked apart the Marshall secondary as the Bearcats repeatedly took advantage of misdirection and one-on-one situations in the passing game.
Ridder finished 18 of 22 for 221 yards and four touchdowns — three of which came in the first half as the Bearcats dominated possession and built an insurmountable lead. Ridder also rushed for 48 yards.
While Ridder was on his game, Marshall’s offense never got going early on with the rushing attack proving ineffective and quarterback Isaiah Green not able to find his mark.
Green struggled from the beginning, hitting on just two of his first eight passes without ever getting into a rhythm. He finished 11 of 29 for 131 yards in the loss.
Cincinnati led 14-0 before the Herd gained its initial first down as Ridder connected on touchdown tosses of 13 yards to Rashad Medaris and 17 yards to Alec Pierce.
The touchdown toss to Pierce was especially painful for the Herd as it came on third-and-goal from the Marshall 17 after an offensive pass interference penalty pushed the Bearcats back.
Marshall made a late defensive switch and the Herd looked discombobulated as Pierce hauled in the scoring pass.
“We’ve got to put this behind us, but we can’t lose this (lesson),” said Marshall safety Nazeeh Johnson, who finished with a team-high 13 tackles. “This is a learning experience for all of us. We made a couple mistakes on defense and we can just learn from this game.”
It only got worse for the Herd, who also were bitten by a bit of bad luck late in the half.
After Josiah Deguara’s scoring catch made it 21-0, Marshall finally got pressure on Ridder. With the Bearcats inside the Herd 10, Tavante Beckett’s sack of Ridder forced a fumble; however, the ball sailed forward and Deguara alertly picked up the live ball and walked into the end zone to make it 28-0 at the half.
Cincinnati took possession to open the game and instantly took Marshall’s home crowd out of the contest, using a five-play, 61-yard drive to get into the end zone on Medaris’ score.
A quick three-and-out gave the Bearcats possession again and they kept it for 19 plays before Pierce’s touchdown reception.
Cincinnati ran 24 of the game’s first 27 offensive plays and owned a massive advantage in time of possession.
Sheldon Evans rushed for a 13-yard touchdown run with 12:45 left to help Marshall avoid its first shutout since 2000 and Willie Johnson later took a reverse 40 yards for a score following a Cincinnati fumble as well.
Marshall returns to action for its Conference USA opener when it hits the road to take on Middle Tennessee at 3:30 p.m. on Saturday at Johnny “Red” Floyd Stadium in Murfreesboro, Tennessee.
Green said the team’s resolve won’t change after Saturday’s loss — especially with conference play opening.
“We lost as a team,” Green said. “They played better than we did tonight and we lost, but we’ve got to move on. All the wins before this game and all the losses before this game, they don’t matter.
“If we want to achieve our goal of winning a championship, we’ve got to focus on getting better from right now until December.”