HUNTINGTON, W.Va. – With starting quarterback Chase Litton sidelined by injury, Marshall could not muster any offense. That was bad news with third-ranked Louisville piling up touchdowns en route to a 59-28 victory in front of the second-largest crowd at Joan C. Edwards Stadium.
Marshall confirmed Litton wold miss the game 60 minutes prior to kickoff. That pushed true freshman Garet Morrell into the starting job, facing a blitz-happy Cardinals defense.
“We just tried to get him in the game and make him feel comfortable,” said tight end Ryan Yuracheck. “That’s a tough atmosphere to be 18 years old and starting your first game in one of the biggest games in Marshall history.”
The combination of a young quarterback facing a defense with 13 sacks resulted in an ultra-conservative offensive game plan for Marshall, which mustered 207 yards.
That made the defense’s job of trying to slow down Heisman frontrunner Lamar Jackson doubly difficult.
Louisville piled up 690 yards as Jackson padded his Heisman resume with five touchdown passes and two more touchdown runs. Jackson threw for 417 yards on 24-of-44 passing. He also rushed for 71 yards on 12 carries.
“We wanted to make certain everybody executed their assignments, which everybody did in the first quarter. If we would have kept doing that on through, we would have been good,” assessed defensive back Corey Neely, who finished with a game-high 12 tackles.
Marshall’s defense limited the Cardinals to just seven points in the first quarter, the fewest all season in the first quarter for the Cardinals. Louisville scored on a 71-yard touchdown pass to James Quick, in which the Marshall defender slipped leaving Quick wide open down field.
While Marshall’s defense performed admirably, the lack of offensive production allowed Cardinals’ quarterback Larmar Jackson to get things cranked up in the second quarter. Louisville scored 28 points in the second quarter on three Jackson touchdown passes. The fourth score came on a Lamar Jackson 8-yard touchdown run.
Marshall’s lone score in the first half was set up on a turnover by the Cardinals. Jaire Alexander muffed a punt that was recovered by Chase Hancock at the Cardinals’ 14-yard line. That set up a 16-yard touchdown pass from Morrell to tight end Ryan Yuracheck.
Louisville had the game in hand by the end of the first half with a 35-7 lead. The Cardinals were outgaining Marshall 377-47. Morrell had completed just 4-of-11 passes for only 15 yards.
The Cardinals added to their lead when Jackson rushed for a 9-yard touchdown and threw a 51-yard touchdown pass in the third quarter. Blanton Creque added a 39-yard field goal to put the Cardinals up 52-7.
Marshall found the endzone twice in the fourth quarter. Keion Davis caught a 12-yard touchdown pass from Morrell with 13:40 left in the game. Less than a minute later, Ty Tyler returned a Cardinal fumble 26 yards for his second defensive touchdown of the season.
The Herd found the end zone one more time with 2:41 remaining on a 13-yard Tony Pittman run.
Morrell finished 9-of-21 for 59 yards and two touchdowns. Pittman was Marshall’s leading rusher with seven carries for 54 yards.
Marshall lost consecutive home games for the first time since 2007 when it fell to West Virginia and New Hampshire.