The dull, dreary, and rainy weather conditions in Huntington, West Virginia were a sign of things to come for the Marshall Thundering Herd Saturday and the Florida International Panthers held off the Herd to secure a 41-30 win in front of 19,966 fans at Joan C. Edwards Stadium.
FIU (5-2, 3-1) opened up a shocking 28-7 halftime lead and led by as many as 28 points in the second half to hold off a late Marshall (6-2, 3-1) rally to secure its best start to a season in program history.
Marshall began the game with the ball and just two plays in, a bad omen for the remainder of the game occurred when quarterback Chase Litton lost handle of a wet ball and FIU’s Bryce Canady recovered to set up the Panthers’ offense at the Herd’s 13-yard line.
And four plays later, Napoleon Maxwell found the end zone from 1 yard out to give FIU an early 7-0 lead with 13:22 remaining in the first quarter. And after a quick punt by Marshall, the Panthers’ offense wasn’t done scoring.
A 10-play, 66-yard drive was capped off with an Alex Gardner 7-yard touchdown run to extend the FIU lead up to 14-0 with 6:59 remaining in the first quarter.
That score held until midway through the second quarter when the Herd finally got on the scoreboard with a Litton touchdown pass to Willie Johnson from 15 yards out to cut FIU’s lead down to 14-7 with 7:37 to go in the second quarter.
But the Panthers had an answer on their next offensive possession when quarterback Alex McGough found Thomas Owens for a 41-yard touchdown to extend their lead up to 21-7 with 4:55 remaining in the second quarter.
Marshall threatened offensively on its next offensive possession, but a bad snap on a field goal attempt thwarted the drive and FIU’s offense set up at its own 30-yard line.
And it did not take the Panthers long to siege complete control of the game and three plays later, McGough found Owens again for a touchdown, this time a 19-yard touchdown to extend the FIU lead up to a commanding 28-7 with 31 seconds to go until halftime.
That score held into halftime and the third quarter began with the Marshall defense forcing an FIU punt, but the Herd’s offense was unable to capitalize and failed on fourth down for the third time on the day.
After forcing another Panthers punt, the Marshall offense began at its own 7-yard line where disaster struck for the Herd by the tune of an interception for a touchdown by FIU’s Brad Muhammad that went 12 yards to extend FIU’s lead up to 35-7 with 6:11 remaining in the third quarter.
The Herd’s offense finally got going again on its next possession when Tyler King found the end zone from 26 yards out to cut FIU’s lead down to 35-14 with 4:27 to go in the third quarter.
After forcing another punt, Marshall’s offense got the ball back. But only for another Litton interception to Muhammad for FIU to set the Panthers up at their own 23-yard line.
FIU turned it into three points when Jose Borregales connected on a 30-yard field goal to extend the Panthers’ lead to 38-14 with 8:15 to go in the fourth quarter.
The Herd’s offense quickly answered when Litton found Marcel Williams for a 24-yard touchdown to cut the FIU lead down to 38-22 with 7 minutes remaining in the fourth quarter after a successful 2-point conversion attempt from Litton to Johnson.
After another FIU punt, Marshall’s offense continued its momentum when Litton connected with Tyre Brady for an 8-yard touchdown to cut the Panthers’ lead down to one possession at 38-30 with 2:44 to go in the game after another successful 2-point conversion attempt via Litton to Johnson.
The Herd’s ensuing onside kick attempt failed and FIU’s offense was able to put the game away with another Borregales field goal with just seconds remaining, this time from 38 yards out, to seal the 41-30 upset win over Marshall.
McGough finished 14 for 18 for 177 yards and two touchdowns for FIU and Maxwell led the Panthers on the ground with 11 carries for 93 yards and one touchdown to pace a ground attack that ran for 224 yards on a stout Herd run defense.
Owens led all FIU receivers with seven receptions for 114 yards and two touchdowns while Muhammad led the Panthers defensively with 10 total tackles, six solo tackles, and two interceptions with one interception going for a touchdown.
Litton finished 33 for 52 for 363 yards and three touchdowns, but two costly interceptions and one fumble for the Herd while Keion Davis led Marshall on the ground with 11 carries for 85 yards. The Herd’s three turnovers led to 17 FIU points on the day.
Brady and Williams led all Herd receivers with nine receptions and one touchdown each with Brady adding 101 receiving yards and Williams adding 92 receiving yards of his own and Chase Hancock led Marshall defensively with 17 total tackles and 1.5 tackles-for-loss.
With the loss, Marshall’s five-game winning streak was snapped and FIU got its first-ever win at Marshall and second straight win in the series. The Herd and the Panthers are now tied for second place in C-USA’s East Division and one game back of division-leading Florida Atlantic.
The Herd will look to get back on track and make a big statement on Nov. 3 at East Division-leading FAU. FIU returns to action Nov. 4 at home against UTSA.