2019 0901 mu football

Sholten Singer/The Herald-Dispatch Marshall's Talik Keaton (9) looks for running room as he returns a punt against VMI in an NCAA football game on Saturday, Aug. 31, 2019, at Joan C. Edwards Stadium in Huntington, W.Va.

HUNTINGTON — The investment in Talik Keaton is paying returns for Marshall University’s football team.

The redshirt freshman out of Booker High School in Sarasota, Florida, returned a punt 67 yards for a touchdown in the first quarter of the Thundering Herd’s victory over VMI Saturday at Joan C. Edwards Stadium. It was Marshall’s first punt return for a TD since Nov. 14, 2015, when Deandre Reaves ran back a punt 69 yards for a score against FIU.

Keaton, who returned five punts for 113 yards, was one of several players who contributed in their first game action at Marshall.

Redshirt freshman wide receiver Corey Gammage, out of Atlantic Community High School in Delray Beach, Florida, caught five passes for 83 yards and a touchdown in three quarters. Stone Scarcelle, a red-shirt sophomore from Spring-Ford High School in Royersford, Pennsylvania, started in place of injured senior Obi Obialo and made a four-yard catch on the Herd’s first play from scrimmage. Scarcelle finished with two catches for 10 yards.

Gavin Richardson, a senior transfer from the University of Kentucky, also made his first career catch in kelly green and white and snagged three passes for 23 yards.

Micah Abraham, a true freshman from East Lake High in Tampa, Florida, started at free safety for injured red-shirt junior Nazeeh Johnson.

ARMY SAYS GO HERD: U.S. Army recruiters set up outside Joan C. Edwards Stadium Saturday had no split loyalties despite VMI being a military school.

“Definitely Marshall,” Captain Ryan Miller said of which team he favored. “You always have to go with the home team in the opening game.”

Miller said he and other soldiers will man the Army recruiting tent at each home game, seeking volunteers for active duty and reserves.

FEELS LIKE THE LAST TIME: Before Saturday, the last time Marshall and VMI played was Oct. 12, 1996, the Herd’s final season in the Southern Conference.

Marshall won that game 45-20 on its way to a 15-0 season that ended with a NCAA Division I-AA national championship.

The Herd leads its series with the Keydets 15-5 and has won 15 in a row. VMI last beat Marshall 20-16 on Oct. 24, 1981 at Fairfield Stadium.

ROUNDING UP: VMI has not won an opening game on the road since 2002 when it defeated Charleston Southern 27-24. ... The color analyst on Saturday’s game broadcast on Stadium was former Ohio State and NFL linebacker A.J. Hawk. ... VMI plays an opponent with a similar name to Marshall next week when the Keydets open at home vs. Mars Hill. ... The Herd was briefly penalized in the first quarter for having too few players on the field in punt return formation. A recount, however, led to the penalty being reversed. ... Former Marshall guard Steve Perretta was promoted to sergeant with the New York City Police Department last week.

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