The Marshall Thundering Herd (8-5, 4-4 C-USA) held off a fourth quarter comeback attempt from the Colorado State Rams (7-6, 5-3 MW) to secure their sixth straight bowl victory by a score of 31-28 in the 12th Annual Gildan New Mexico Bowl on Saturday afternoon at Dreamstyle Stadium.
The first quarter was the controlled by the two defenses, as neither team was able to put points on the board or produce much offense at all. Marshall’s defense was able to stifle the Rams and held their potent attack to only 57 yards. CSU quarterback Nick Stevens struggled to find Biletnikoff finalist Michael Gallup, who only caught two passes in the first quarter. Things weren’t much better for The Herd, who produced 68 yards of total offense.
With four minutes left in the quarter, it appeared The Herd was building a promising drive that saw the team enter CSU territory for the first time all day. However, it was quickly snuffed out when Chase Litton threw into double coverage and was intercepted by Jordan Fogal at the CSU eight. Unfortunately for the Rams, they were unable to capitalize and were forced to punt 20 seconds into the second quarter.
In the second quarter, the both teams got their offenses going early. On Marshall’s first offensive play of the quarter, Chase Litton threw a 76-yard pass to Tyre Brady down the west sideline to open the scoring and give Marshall a 7-0 lead. The Rams answered on the ensuing possession with a 15 play, 75-yard drive that culminated in a 5-yard touchdown pass to Detrich Clark. Marshall wasted no time answering the Rams, as they marched down the field for a 15-yard touchdown pass. The Herd went took six plays and 2:10 to go 75 yards and retake the lead at 14-7.
Colorado State wasted no time striking back, as a 48-yard pass to Bisi Johnson set up a 9-yard scramble into the endzone for Nick Stevens a few plays later to tie the game at 14. Marshall flashed the ability to score quickly once again, re-taking the lead with a two play, 46-second drive that ended in a 68-yard Keion Davis touchdown run. It marked the fifth straight drive with a touchdown.
Marshall players raise the New Mexico Bowl trophy and celebrate their win against CSU at the Dreamstyle Stadium on Dec. 16, 2017. Marshall won the NM Bowl over CSU 31-28
Davon Durant #36 senior defensive lineman intersects the ball and hurdles over #8 from CSU during the New Mexico Bowl on Dec. 16, 2017.
With Colorado State looking to answer, the Marshall defense was able to reassert themselves and forced a three-and-out from the Rams. Marshall got the ball back with a chance to take a two-touchdown lead, but a big sack from Evan Colorito caused an 11-yard loss that forced The Herd to punt. Suddenly the game was reminiscent of the scoreless first quarter. Marshall was able to force CSU into the third consecutive drive that ended with a punt. Marshall ran out the clock and took a 21-14 lead into the half.
The second half started off in similar fashion to the first, with Marshall forcing a CSU punt on the opening possession. But that’s where the similarities ended — Marshall running back Tyler King broke through the defense and went 90 yards for a touchdown, the longest touchdown run in New Mexico Bowl history. CSU’s offense was once again stagnant, as it was early on in the game. Not even the Stevens-Gallup connection that had proved deadly all season was working, as a Gallup drop on third down forced the Rams to punt once again.
On the ensuing Marshall possession, the Rams defense was able to keep Marshall out of the endzone with a strong redzone stop, forcing The Herd to kick a field goal to go up by three scores, 31-14. CSU was forced to punt once again and received a scare when Stevens was slow to get up following first down. Luckily for the Rams, he returned for the third down, but it wasn’t enough. The third quarter ended 31-14 in favor of The Herd and time running out on a potential CSU comeback.
The Rams wasted no time cutting into the Marshall lead, driving 79 yards in six plays and just 1:21 to score on a 24-yard pass to Detrich Clark, marking his second touchdown of the game. With 12:55 to go, the Marshall lead was reduced to 10, 31-21. On the ensuing possession, Litton had a pass intercepted by CSU’s Anthony Hawkins, and suddenly the Rams appeared to have some life.
However, it wasn’t meant to be for the Rams, who were unable to gain any ground, and turned over the ball on downs at midfield. Marshall wasn’t content to run out the clock, kept the ball in the air and was forced to punt again, keeping the Rams alive.
This time, the Rams didn’t waste their opportunity and drove down the field to score on a Stevens keeper, they were set up in the red zone on a 40-yard pass to Warren Jackson. With 6:37 to play, the Rams were only down by a field goal, 31-28.
Marshall went to the ground on their next possession and was able to pick up one first down but was unable to pick up a second, as the Rams defense held firm on third down at midfield. The Rams took over with 3:18 to play at their own 16 only down by a field goal.
A Marshall penalty, their ninth of the day, moved the Rams up to their 26 and nullified what was ruled a Marshall fumble recovery that would have effectively ended the game. However, the drive flamed out at the 43-yard line and the Rams wasted an incredible one-handed catch by Gallup.
Marshall took back over with 1:46 to play, needing one first down to seal the game. Colorado State burned their two remaining timeouts, and The Herd was able to get the first down and seal the game.
Cameron Goeldner is a freelance sports reporter and photographer for the Daily Lobo. He primarily covers men’s soccer but also contributes content for baseball, basketball, football and track and field. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @goeldfinger.