HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — One bad quarter can ruin a whole game.
The Marshall University football team led 21-7 after one quarter of play on Saturday afternoon at Joan C. Edwards Stadium, but non-conference guest Akron outscored the Thundering Herd 34-0 in the second quarter, and the Zips rolled to a 65-38 victory.
The Zips (2-1) scored on the game’s opening drive, as Thomas Woodson connected with Mykel Traylor-Bennett for an eight-yard touchdown pass, capping off the 5-play, 80-yard drive.
The Thundering Herd (1-1) — who went three-and-out on their first drive — forced an Akron fumble to regain possession at the MU 25. On the ninth play of the Marshall drive, sophomore Chase Litton found Michael Clark for a three-yard touchdown pass, tying the game at seven.
Litton threw two more touchdowns in the opening quarter, first finding Deon-Tay McManus from 18 yards out and then finding Josh Knight from the UA 21-yard line.
Marshall’s defense forced three straight punts, and the Herd started their first second quarter drive at their own 34. On the fourth play of the drive, Litton was sacked by Deon’Tay Moore and fumbled the ball away. Akron’s Daumantas Venckus scooped the ball and ran 35 yards for the touchdown.
A would-be fourth down conversion on Marshall’s next drive was called back for an illegal formation penalty — one of 17 penalties MU committed on the day — and the Herd were forced to punt.
Akron drove 63 yards in seven plays for the game-tying touchdown, and the series was capped off by a 35-yard pass from Woodson to JoJo Natson.
Marshall punted again on its next possession, but this time the kick was blocked by Zach Guiser. Ulysees Gilbert III picked up the ball for Akron and ran 30 yards for the go-ahead touchdown. However, the point after kick was missed — Tom O’Leary’s only miss of the day in nine PAT chances — and Akron led 27-21.
Marshall began moving the ball on its next possession, covering 35 yards in five plays. However, on the sixth play of the drive, a tipped pass was intercepted, giving the Zips possession at their own 36.
The guests needed just two plays to cover the distance needed, with a 34-yard pass from Woodson to Austin Wolf, followed by a 30-yard scoring pass from Woodson to Kwadarrius Smith. The Zips, who trailed by 14 at the start of the second quarter, now led 34-21 with 5:02 left in the half.
Akron wasn’t done in the second quarter, however, as an interception set the Zips up at the MU 11, with 1:26 remaining in the period. On the third play of the drive, Akron’s Tra’Von Chapman ran into the endzone from one-yard out, making the Zips’ lead 41-21 at halftime.
Out of the half, MU put together an 11-play 80-yard scoring drive, capped off by an 8-yard Keion Davis run. However, Akron answered with a seven-play, 75-yard scoring drive, which was capped off by a 27-yard touchdown pass from Woodson to Wolf.
Marshall drove 48 yards on 10 plays in its next drive, but was forced to settle for a 29-yard field goal by Amoreto Curraj, who was 5-for-5 on point after kicks in the setback.
Akron’s next drive went 75 yards in nine plays and resulted in a three-yard touchdown run by Woodson, which came with 14:00 left in the game.
UA went up 58-31 with an O’Leary field goal at the 7:50 mark of the fourth quarter, but Marshall answered, as the Herd covered 75 yards in eight plays, with Litton finding Knight for a 25-yard scoring pass to cap off the drive.
The final score of the game came with 2:45 remaining, when DeMarcus Lloyd intercepted a Litton pass and returned it 31 yards for the touchdown.
“It’s obvious we did not play well,” MU head coach Doc Holliday said. “We have to give Akron credit, that staff did a great job of having that team ready to play. You can’t turn the ball over and you can’t be penalized as much as we were, to have a shot in that game.”
For the game, Marshall outgained UA 560-to-524 in total offense, including 446-to-379 through the air. The Herd also had a 31-to-26 advantage in first downs. However, Marshall was minus-3 in turnover differential and had 180 yards in penalties, compared to Akron, which had 13 penalties for 136 yards.
“Our players came ready to play,” Akron head coach Terry Bowden said. “We knew we had a monumental task coming here, we knew Marshall’s records and coaches, and how good they are. Marshall has great tradition, they don’t lose at home and I’m a West Virginian, I know it. For us to come here and play like we did, it’s a huge win for us. It was a great team victory.”
Litton completed 32-of-57 passes for 413 yards, with four touchdowns and three interceptions. Knight caught seven passes for 118 yards, while Ryan Yurachek hauled in five passes for 65 yards. McManus, Davis and Clark each had four receptions, with 70, 52 and 48 yards respectively.
Heleck Foster led the Herd on the ground with 77 yards on 18 carries. Davis had 43 yards on 12 carries, while Anthony Anderson added 18 yards on four attempts.
Ty Tyler, Chase Hancock, Gary Thompson and Ryan Bee each had a half of a sack for the Herd defense. Hancock had a team-best eight tackles, while C.J, Reavis and Davon Durant each added seven tackles.
For Akron, Woodson completed 21-of-32 passes for 374 yards and four touchdowns. Natson and Jerome Lane each caught seven passes, for 134 and 115 yards respectively. Manny Morgan led the guests on the ground with 130 yards on 18 rushes.
Next, Marshall will welcome 3-0 Louisville to Joan C. Edwards Stadium on Saturday, September 24, at 8 p.m. The Cardinals — who were ranked No. 10 coming into Saturday — defeated No. 2 Florida State by a 63-20 final, in the Bluegrass State.
The Zips return will host Appalachian State at 3:30, on September 24.
Alex Hawley can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2100.