HUNTINGTON, W.Va.– The Herd scored early and often in the first half and put Gardner-Webb away early as The Herd rolled to a 55-0 win over Gardner-Webb Saturday night.
The shutout is the first by a Thundering Herd team since Marshall downed Ohio 28-0 in 2003. That’s 111 games since the defense has held the opposition scoreless.
The Herd’s defense forced four turnovers in the first half, two interceptions and two fumbles, that Marshall converted into 20 points, highlighted by Monterius Lovett’s 70-yard interception return for a touchdown with 5:42 to play in the first half. The Herd finished the night with six takeways
“It was a switch route and D.J. Hunter knocked him off his route and I knew it was coming, so I read it good and picked off then took it to the house,” grinned Lovett after the game.
The pick-6 was the longest interception return since Rashad Jackson returned an interception 84 yards for a touchdown against Tulane in 2010.
Even by the time Lovett scampered to the endzone the game was out of reach. From the opening kickoff, the disparity in speed and depth was clear. Marshall promptly marched the opening drive down the field, capped off by Steward Butler nine-yard touchdown run. Butler would find the endzone again with 5:32 to play in the first quarter when he broke loose on a 46-yard scoring scamper to give Marshall a 14-0 lead.
“We came out and wanted to establish the run early and we got it done,” said center Chris Jasperse. “We’ve got great backs back there and they were just making plays.”
Butler finished the night with 153 yards on just nine carries and three touchdowns. He averaged 16.8 yards per carry. His second touchdown was set up by an Alex Bazzie strip and fumble recovery. Bazzie ripped the football from the hands of GWU tailback Juanne Blount.
“We try to create turnovers in practice,” said defensive lineman Steve Dillon. “You practice line you play.”
Marshall’s defense would come up with another turnover on the next series when A.J. Leggett gathered his first career interception with 10:21 to play in the half. Four plays later Rakeem Cato rushed for an eight-yard touchdown to give Marshall a 21-0 lead.
The Herd would get the ball right back on the third turnover of the half. Corey Tindal came on the blitz and recovered a fumble by Bulldogs’ quarterback Lucas Beatty. That set up a 31-yard Justin Haig field goal.
If the game wasn’t already out of reach Lovett’s 70-yard interception return for a touchdown put to rest any doubt that Marshall was on its way to a blowout victory.
The Herd would tack on three more touchdowns in the third quarter. Marshall rolled up 509 yards of total offense but ran just 74 plays. The Herd gained 6.9 yards per play against the Bulldogs.