10:06am: Talkline with Hoppy Kercheval

Marshall tops Georgia Southern, 23-10

— By David Walsh

A lot of good things happened for Marshall football Saturday night against Georgia Southern.

Running back Rasheen Ali saw his first action of the season. The defense, which leads or is near the top in nearly all Sun Belt Conference categories, allowed just one touchdown. The offense ran up 583 total yards as quarterback Cam Fancher led the way with perhaps his most efficient game as a starter as he amassed 337 yards combined.

All those weapons proved too much for the Eagles as Marshall prevailed, 23-10, in front of 16,153 fans at Allen Paulson Stadium in Statesboro, Ga., to become bowl eligible with seven wins. The Herd (7-4, 4-3 Sun Belt Conference) needed seven since it beat two FBC teams.

Georgia Southern (5-6, 2-5 Sun Belt) must beat Appalachian State next week at home to get bowl eligible.

Ali carried 16 times for 79 yards. Khalan Laborn, who took over from Ali when the Conference USA freshman of the year in 2021 got hurt in preseason, added 70 on 17 carries.

Then Fancher, in his fourth start, completed 17-of-32 for 274 yards and two scores and carried 14 times for 63 yards and a score. Marshall totaled 255 rushing to go with Fancher’s pass production.

Georgia Southern had 384 total yards – 179 rushing and 205 passing. However, the Eagles managed just 138 total yards in the second half. Jalen White led the home team runners with 143 yards on 13 attempts with 100 coming in period one.

“That was a gritty, gutsy win,” Herd coach Charles Huff said. “It was not pretty. That team’s been putting up a lot of points. Great night for the Herd.”

Ali’s presence caught nearly everyone by surprise. He missed the first 10 games to rehab.

“There’s a plan for everything we do,” Huff said. “We didn’t want teams to prepare for him. It’s a good start.”

Laborn, who developed into the workhorse in the backfield, now has 1,323 yards rushing to go with 14 touchdowns.

The younger players also saw action and Huff saw good things from them.

“Some guys it’s taken a while to develop,” Huff said. “Obviously Cam did a really good job. He managed the game well. EJ (Horton) is coming on. We started fast and the defense played off that.”

On its first possession, the Herd saw Fancher complete a short pass, Laborn run twice and then Fancher, lefthander and redshirt freshman, found wide out EJ Horton for a 65-yard score. Horton ran down the middle and got behind the Georgia Southern secondary and sped into the end zone.

Georgia Southern then appeared to bounce back only to see a run down the Marshall 20 called back due to an illegal block. The Eagles settled for a 46-yard field goal by Alex Raynor.
Fancher tossed his second TD pass early in the second when he found Shadeed Ahmed open on a cross, Ahmed got a shield from an official and raced 33 yards for the score. The drive covered 64 yards.

On its next drive, Georgia Southern fumbled the ball away when quarterback Kyle Vantrease appeared to miss the handoff to a back. The Herd’s Damion Barber Jr. recovered at the visitor’s 43.

On third-and-6 at its 47, Fancher found Jayden Harrison for 28 yards before he went out of bounds. On the next snap, Fancher took the ball, took a step back, then took off on a run over a hole to the left side of the line, and went 19 yards for the score and 20-3 lead.

The Eagles finally got something going on their last drive of the half. Starting from their 15, they went the distance in eight plays with Vantrease hitting Khaleb Hood on a tunnel screen for a 27-yard TD. On the play before, the Herd appeared to get a stop, but a pass interference call on D’Yani Hill gave the Eagles a first down at the 27.

The only score in the second half came on a 36-yard field goal by Rece Vanhoff. On that drive, the Herd covered 65 yards in 15 plays and took 5:23 off the clock. Laborn had runs of 11 and 14 yards and Ali one for 15 on the drive.

Georgia Southern has now lost three in a row. Marshall leads the all-time series 5-2. The two schools used to be members of the then I-AA Southern Conference. They last played in 1996 prior to Saturday.

Vantrease, a transfer from Buffalo, had 3,306 yards passing and 21 touchdowns coming into the game.

Marshall extended its winning streak to three. It finished with a 4-2 record in road games.

Marshall concludes the regular season next Saturday at home against Georgia State. Kickoff is at noon at Joan C. Edwards Stadium. The Panthers (4-7, 3-4 in the Sun Belt) lost at James Madison, 42-40, Saturday after they led 34-14 at halftime.

“Find a way for these seniors to go out,” Huff said. “One more time at the Joan. Focus on the task at hand. Do the job at an elite level.”

Marshall players wore decals on the back of their helmets to honor the three University of Virginia players who were killed last Sunday when they returned from a field trip to see a play in Washington, D.C. The shooting occurred with them still on the bus.

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