Marshall rolls over Hilltoppers on homecoming

Marshall running back Sheldon Evans tries to block Antwon Kincaid, WKU defensive back, as Evans runs with the ball during the Marshall-WKU homecoming game on Oct. 10, 2020. 

Kaden Gaylord

The Hilltoppers (1-3), (1-1, C-USA) were defeated by Marshall University (3-0), (1-0, C-USA) by a score of 38-14. The homecoming matchup drew 4,428 fans into Houchens-Smith Stadium for the second home game of the season. 

“As a head coach, the first thing I gotta do is look at me and say ok how do I get better to help the football team,” head coach Tyson Helton said. “I didn’t see a lot of positives, I saw a lot of good men fighting and kept battling and tried to do their best.”

Marshall came out the gates hot after receiving the ball to start the game, scoring in just 48 seconds on a two-play drive. 

The Herd put the Hilltoppers on their heels with a 30-yard pass from redshirt freshman quarterback Grant Wells to sophomore wideout Broc Thompson followed by a 45 yard run from redshirt junior running back Brendon Knox powering his way into the endzone to make it a 7-0 game. 

WKU had nothing going in their first drive but got the ball moving downfield in the second behind the legs and play-action from graduate quarterback Tyrrell Pigrome. But on a 3rd and one, Pigrome fumble the ball and gave it back to the Herd on Marshall’s 40-yard line. 

Marshall went back to work, driving the ball down the field behind the legs of the redshirt junior running back Sheldon Evans who had a 25-yard rush after breaking two tackles from WKU’s defense to get Marshall down to the five-yard line. The next play Evans rushed it in to extend their lead by two scores 14-0. 

The WKU defense improved in the second quarter with less missed tackles and stellar play from the secondary with multiple pass breakups. The offense couldn’t capitalize on these opportunities failing to get downfield with all drives ending with punts.

Marshall came out on their third drive of the quarter with a 40-yard deep throw from Wells to Thompson again to set the Herd up on the four-yard line, running it on the next play, followed by the extra point, to give them a 21-0 lead. 

With the ball in his hands scrambling down the field, Pigrome fumbled for the second time of the game with two minutes remaining in the first half. 

Marshall took advantage of the tired defense with Knox scoring again with 27 seconds left on the clock to take a 28-0 into halftime. 

Marshall dominated the first half with 263 total yards to WKU’s 79. The Herd almost quadrupled the Hilltoppers in rushing yards 126 to 32 and had an 11 to 3 first down advantage. 

Both teams traded punts to start the second half. WKU brought the pressure in Marshall’s second drive highlighted by a 16-yard sack by Damon Lowe Jr eventually forcing Marshall to punt from their own 20. 

On the next WKU possession, a muffed exchange between Pigrome and redshirt junior running back Jaikari Moses which led to Marshall’s redshirt senior linebacker Tavante Beckett scooping the ball up and scoring from 38 yards out giving them a 35-0 lead. 

WKU’s redshirt sophomore quarterback Kevaris Thomas checked into the game and went three and out, ending on a dropped pass from sophomore tight end Josh Simon. Marshall would get the ball back and end the drive with a field goal giving them a 38-0 lead with 2:22 left in the third quarter. 

WKU reached the redzone for the first time on a 51 yard pass to redshirt senior receiver Xavier Lane. Thomas went on to score the Hilltoppers first points of the game on a two-yard run, ending the quarter. 

WKU would go on to score one more touchdown on a 26-yard pass to redshirt freshman tight end Dalvin Smith with six seconds left. Marshall takes the win 38-14.  

“We had a very big talk about unity tonight before the game,” Thomas said. “We just said no matter what happens we have to stick together and that’s what I went in and did, stuck together with my offense.” 

Pigrome went 12-21 for 61 yards. Thomas went 9-18 for 148, one passing touchdown and one on the ground. WKU finished with 294 total yards with 209 through the air. WKU went 2-12 on third down and had three total turnovers. 

Grant Wells went 16-22 for 162 yards. Brendon Knox had 15 carries for 107 yards and 3 touchdowns. Marshall had 344 total yards and went 4-4 in the red zone. 

WKU will head on the road to face the University of Alabama-Birmingham. The Blazers are currently (3-1), (1-0, C-USA) but didn’t have a game Saturday due to their matchup against Rice being postponed. Game time is set for 12:30 C.T. kickoff. 

Men’s basketball beat reporter Kaden Gaylord can be reached at [email protected] Follow Kaden on Twitter at @_KLG3.