Freshman quarterback Chase Litton passed for 218 yards and one touchdown and running back Keion Davis ran for 73 yards as Marshall defeated UConn 16-10 in the St. Petersburg Bowl on Saturday afternoon at Tropicana Field.
Wide receiver Deandre Reaves, the Most Valuable Player of the game, caught nine passes for 88 yards and also had a big punt return that set up a touchdown for the Thundering Herd.
Marshall (10-3) was 11 of 17 on third downs and took advantage of some poor tackling by the UConn (6-7) defense that allowed the Herd offense to stay on the field for long periods of time.
After Reaves returned a punt 26 yards back to the UConn 20-yard line, the Herd scored quickly, as Litton found tight end Ryan Yurachek for a 16-yard touchdown pass up the middle just two plays after the punt return to put Marshall in front 7-0.
UConn head coach Bob Diaco really started to call Bryan Shirreff’s number on the ensuing drive for the Huskies. Shirreffs, who played in his first game since leaving the Houston game on Nov. 21 with a concussion, ran the ball six times and threw it twice in a drive that escalated to a 13-play, 75-yard touchdown drive.
Shirreffs found Newsome on a 17-yard screen pass to set up a first and goal for the Huskies. Ron Johnson then ran in from 8 yards to tie the game 7-7.
Marshall’s Nick Smith added 21 and 29-yard field goals in the second quarter to take a 13-7 lead into halftime.
The Herd outgained the Huskies 213 to 111 in total yards for the half.
On their opening drive of the second half; Marshall failed to increase its lead after UConn stopped Marshall on a fourth-and-2. But Marshall took 6:07 off the clock.
Shirreffs threw an interception on the Huskies next drive to give Marshall the ball back.
Marshall turned in another impressive drive of 10 plays and 31 yards that used 4:30, but Smith missed a 42-yard field goal to keep it a one-possession game, once again failing to lengthen their lead.
UConn’s kicker Bobby Puyol, the team’s MVP of the game, made a 52-yard field goal to make it 13-10 to end the third quarter, giving the Huskies a glimmer of hope heading into the final quarter.
Like he has done all season, Jamar Summer made a play when UConn needed it most. Summers intercepted Litton on an attempted deep pass and UConn took over on its 10-yard line with 13:43 left in the game. It was Summers’ eighth interception of the season and his sixth in the last five games.
Shirreffs and the UConn offense would get two chances to score, but they couldn’t produce any points. They didn’t convert on fourth down twice.
Marshall used a 13-play, 80-yard drive in the middle of UConn’s last two possessions that used 6:35 to kick another field goal and lengthen its lead to 16-10.
With no timeouts at their disposal, the Huskies got one first down on the next possession but couldn’t get farther down the field than their own 41-yard line.
The Huskies didn’t get over 200 yards of offense until their final drive when they were forced to throw the ball without any timeouts. They would finish with 213 total yards compared to Marshall’s 389.
Noel Thomas, UConn’s leading receiver, did not have a catch.
Shirreffs led the Huskies in rushes (19) and rushing yards (75). He had 86 yards through the air (10 of 18 passing).
Matt Zampini is the sports editor for The Daily Campus, covering the football team. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. He tweets @Matt_Zamp.