MIAMI – Marshall football dropped its final road game of the season with a 31-14 setback at FIU on Saturday evening. The Thundering Herd moves to 3-8 (2-5 C-USA), while the Panthers improve to 4-7 (4-3 C-USA).
FIU opened scoring with a four-play, 82-yard drive that took 1:26. After three consecutive completions by redshirt freshman quarterback Maurice Alexander, junior running back Alex Gardner made a spin move at the line of scrimmage and darted into the end zone for a 14-yard touchdown to make it 7-0.
The next three drives ended in interceptions, two of which were picked by Marshall cornerback Rodney Allen. They were the first two interceptions for Allen this season, and he became the first MU player with a multi-interception game since Tiquan Lang last season against Purdue.
In between Allen’s interceptions, Marshall sophomore quarterback Chase Litton had a pass intercepted by FIU’s Isaiah Brown with 6:59 left of the first quarter. It was the Herd’s first turnover – interception or fumble – in 214 minutes and 8 seconds of game time, dating back to the third quarter against Charlotte on Oct. 22. The turnover also ended Litton’s streak of 123 consecutive pass attempts without an interception.
After the second of Allen’s interceptions, the Herd marched 71 yards on eight plays before Litton found Emanuel Byrd for a 17-yard touchdown. Litton was 4-for-4 with 59 passing yards on the scoring drive, which tied the game at 7-7. The touchdown pass extended Litton’s streak of consecutive games with a touchdown pass to 21 games.
FIU took a lead into halftime after scoring a touchdown with 38 seconds left of the second quarter. The Panthers put together an eight-play, 82-yard drive that ended when quarterback Christian Alexander found backup tight end A.J. Branisel for a 3-yard score to make it 14-7 at halftime.
The touchdown ended a string of five scoreless drives for FIU, which had two possessions end in interceptions, one on a turnover on downs, one on a missed field goal and then a three-and-out that forced the Panthers to punt for the first time.
FIU extended the lead to 17-7 on a 29-yard field goal by Austin Taylor to cap a 15-play, 71-yard drive that lasted 7:51 and ate more than half of the third quarter clock.
The Thundering Herd had its own 15-play drive on the following possession. Litton quickly moved the ball down the field with four completions of 10 yards or more. Marshall had first and goal from the 1-yard line, but was unable to punch it in and was forced to settle for a field goal attempt. Amoreto Curraj’s 20 yard attempt was blocked and FIU took over at its 10-yard line.
FIU pushed its lead to 24-7 on an 8-yard rushing touchdown by Anthony Jones. The Panthers went 90 yards on the 7-play drive.
Marshall responded to bring the game back to within 10 points at 24-14, as Litton found Deon-Tay McManus for a 24-yard touchdown reception. The Herd aired it out for the entire drive going 8-plays for 73 yards. Litton was 6-for-8 on the drive.
Marshall attempted an on-side kick on the ensuing kickoff, but was unsuccessful as FIU took over at the Marshall 46. FIU quickly regained a 17-point lead at 31-14, as it finished off a 5-play, 46-yard drive with an 8-yard rushing score from Gardner.
Litton ended the game going 29-for-42 for 301 yards and two touchdowns. This is the fourth time this season that Litton has passed for over 300 yards, including the first time since Oct. 15 against Florida Atlantic. McManus had a career night with 10 receptions for 151 receiving yards. Kendall Gant and Corey Neely were tied for a team-high 12 tackles.
The Thundering Herd finishes its 2016 season on Saturday, Nov. 26 against WKU at the Joan C. Edwards Stadium.