— By David Walsh
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — Brenden Knox scored on a short run for a score with 3:55 left to secure a 31-17 win for Marshall University against Old Dominion on Saturday afternoon at Joan C. Edwards Stadium.
The Thundering Herd drove 77 yards, mostly on the ground, for the score that iced the win in front of 18,351 fans, a season-low, on Military Appreciation Day. Marshall improves to 3-3 overall, 1-1 in Conference USA. The Monarchs are 1-5, 0-2 in the league.
That decisive drive took 10 plays and used 5:48 off the clock. Quarterback Isaiah Green started the march with a 15-yard run on first down and the ride-read option. Knox capped it with the 6-yard scoring run.
Marshall’s ground game generated 236 yards, a season-high allowed by the Monarchs. The Herd also had a season-high eight sacks.
“Get in the red zone, score and take care of the ball,” Marshall coach Doc Holliday said. “Do that and we can win. We did.”
Marshall returns to action Friday against Florida Atlantic in Boca Raton, Fla. CBS SportsNetwork has the game live at 6:30 p.m. Old Dominion travels to UAB next Saturday.
Green threw for 175 yards and ran for 59. Knox led the Herd with 104 yards.
“Nobody’s ran like we did against that team,” Holliday said. “Defense we were able to get off the field.”
Old Dominion took advantage of two long kickoff returns to score 10 of its points.
Marshall went 94 yards for a TD in the first period. Wide out Broc Thompson had three catches, the big one for 33 yards on a reverse pass from Xavier Gaines down to the 1. Green threw TD pass to Devin Miller on the next snap. Thompson finished with six catches for 91 yards.
“We came up with a plan,” Thompson said. “Coach put us in the right position.”
The Herd made it 14-0 in the second when Green sprinted 17 yards for a score, keeping the ball on the ride-read option.
“However it plays out,” Green said. “The O line stepped up. They took control.”
Old Dominion got its first TD on a 44-yard pass from Messiah deWeaver to Aaron Moore, who beat 1 on 1 coverage. Stone Smartt and deWeaver rotated at quarterback with coach Bobby Wilder finally settling on deWeaver for most of the game. He had 100 yards passing. ODU came in with one of the lowest-ranked teams on offense in the league and nation. The visitors had 206 total yards.
“They let me know,” Hodge said about his record-tying 4.5 sacks.
“He’s good off the edge,” Holliday said. “We need that out of him the rest of the season.”
Justin Rohrwasser booted a career-best 45-yard field goal with 11 seconds before the half. A long kickoff return allowed the Monarchs to get a 39-yard field goal by Nick Rice on the final play of the half.
Willie Johnson scored for the Herd in the the third period on a reverse. Another long kickoff return by Old Dominion set up Keshean Johnson’s 24-yard scoring run to make it 24-17 with 7:01 left in the third.
“Got to clean that up,” Holliday said of the kickoff coverage.
Linebacker Tavante Beckett led the Herd with 14 tackles. He also had a 1/2 sack and 1.5 tackles for loss. He knew many of the Old Dominion players since he is from the Tidewater area and played at Virginia Tech first before coming to Marshall.
“No better feeling than a minus-yardage play,” Beckett said of the defense. “It was not a personal thing. It was good to compete against guys you may know. We were solid in all three phases except for kickoff coverage.”