MURFREESBORO, TN— On a night when defense was hard to come by, Middle Tennessee State had just a bit more offense, scoring on the final play of the game to upset Marshall 51-49.
It appeared as if it would be Marshall that was going to celebrate the come from behind win. Down by 45-41 with 5:03 left Marshall methodically moved the ball down field. Essray Taliaferro ran the ball seven times on The Herd’s final 8-play drive, including a 2-yard touchdown run that gave Marshall the 49-45 lead with 2:29 remaining.
But, the Blue Raiders would come back.
Logan Kilgore hit Tavarres Jefferson for a 24 –yard reception on third and 12 from their own 19. Then facing third and four, Kilgore again found Jefferson for a five-yard gain. Middle Tennessee would move the ball down to the Marshall 27 where if faced fourth and five and again Kilgore found Jefferson, this time for an 18-yard pick up. Kilgore then moved the ball down to the Marshall nine-yard line with just three seconds on the clock.
On the final play of the game, Kilgore again targeted Jefferson. Kilgore fired a pass to Jefferson in the slot who made the catch in the endzone for the game winning score.
Jefferson was targeted seven times on the final drive and came up with five catches including the game winner.
Marshall’s defense struggled to contain the Blue Raiders all night. Middle Tennessee rolled up 585 yards of total offense. 308 of those yards came on the ground as Blue Raider running backs gashed The Herd’s defense.
The offensive output on Middle Tennessee’s part was certainly unexpected. The Blue Raiders came into the game ranked 104th in the country in total offense. However, the Blue Raiders didn’t play that way as two running backs eclipsed the century mark. Jordan Parker led the way with 127 yards on 21 carries. Reggie Whatley carried the ball 16 times and rushed for 104 yards.
Meanwhile, Logan Kilgore completed 22-of-40 for 277 yards and four touchdowns on the night.
Essray Taliaferro led Marshall’s offense, rushing for 134 yards on 24 carries and two touchdowns. Rakeem Cato was 19-for-35 for 235 yards and three touchdown passes.
The Blue Raiders drew first blood on their initial drive. Kilgore hit Kyle Griswold for a 16-yard touchdown pass to cap off an eight play 71 yard drive. Marshall would answer on the ensuing drive thanks to a 39-yard pass from Cato to Jazz King.
It looked as if Marshall was starting to build some momentum. Darryl Roberts came up with an interception as Middle Tennessee was driving near Marshall’s redzone. However, The Herd went three-and-out, and then the mistakes started.
Tyler Williams’ punt was blocked and recovered in the endzone for a Blue Raider touchdown, giving Middle Tennessee 14-7 lead.
Marshall tied the game on the second play of the second quarter on a 1-yard touchdown run by Essray Talaiferro. That was set up by a 30 yard pass to Gator Hoskins that was initially ruled a touchdown but after review officials spotted the ball just outside the goal line. Cato found Hoskins again with 4:00 left in the half from six yards out giving The Herd a 21-14 lead.
Middle Tennessee would get the ball back with 1:58 left in the half after Marshall’s offense could not run out the clock. It would be a sign of things to come later in the game. Kilgore orchestrated a near perfect two-mintue drill that culminated with a 16-yard touchdown pass to Christian Collis.
That was the first of five consecutive scoring drives for Middle Tennessee. In the second half, Marshall did not force a punt until 8:17 remaining in the game. Jordan Parker rushed for a touchdown, Logan Kilgore punched one in and he threw for another. Additionally Cody Clark connected on a 37-yard field.
Marshall answered with a two Kevin Grooms touchdown runs, a 6-yard touchdown pass to Tommy Shuler and a Taliaferro scoring run.
Marshall falls to 4-3 on the year and 2-1 in C-USA. The Herd will be back at Joan C. Edwards Stadium next Saturday to play host to Southern Miss. Kickoff is set for noon.