On the opening drive of Western Kentucky’s game against Marshall, redshirt senior quarterback Mike White drove the Hilltoppers 73 yards in 11 plays, going 6 for 6 for 67 yards and finding Quin Jernighan for a 6-yard touchdown to put the Hilltoppers up 7-0.
Then, everything slowly went downhill.
Marshall scored 30 of the game’s next 33 points, giving WKU its argest deficit of the season early in the fourth quarter, eventually giving the Hilltoppers their third straight loss of the season by a final score of 30-23. White threw for 334 yards and 3 touchdowns, but also threw a crucial interception in the second half that completely flipped the momentum in the favor of Marshall.
Graduate transfer wide receiver Cameron Echols-Luper caught a career high 9 passes for 99 yards and a touchdown, but it wasn’t quite enough.
After easily driving down the field on their opening possession, White and company didn’t convert another first down the rest of the half as the Thundering Herd put up 13 unanswered points into halftime. Marshall drove down into the WKU red zone before the defense made a stop, forcing a Kaare Vedvik 29-yard field goal to make the score 7-3.
On the following possession, Marshall quarterback Chase Litten drove the Thundering Herd deep into WKU territory again before the Hilltopper defense forced another fourth down. This time, Marshall decided to gamble instead of settling for field goal, and it paid off. Marshall running back Keion Davis took a toss sweep around the left side for a 3-yard touchdown to give the Thundering Herd the lead. Vedvik would add one more field goal before the half to give Marshall a 13-7 halftime lead.
Litten and company would get the ball to start the second half, and drove down the field similar to how WKU drove down the field to open the game. Marshall’s Tyler King ran for a 10-yard touchdown, breaking tackles on his way to giving the Thundering Herd a 20-7 lead. White would engineer the first scoring drive since the game’s opening drive, as redshirt junior kicker Ryan Nuss capitalized on a 28-yard field goal to cut the lead to 10 with 7:41 left in the third quarter.
Redshirt freshman Devon Key, who recorded 9 tackles in the loss, intercepted Litten in the end zone to give the Hilltoppers the ball back. Then, White made his one mistake of the game, and it cost WKU a lot.
White looked for his receiver in the flat, and Marshall safety Nazeeh Johnson intercepted it and ran 45 yards untouched to blow the game open, giving Marshall a 27-10 lead and completely switching the momentum. On the ensuing kickoff, redshirt freshman receiver Jachour Pearson fumbled and the Thundering Herd recovered, leading to a field goal to give the Hilltoppers their first 20-point deficit of the season.
The Hilltoppers crawled their way back into the game. White found Echols-Luper for a 25 -ard touchdown down the left sideline to make it a 30-16 after Nuss missed his first extra point of the season. After the Hilltopper defense forced a Marshall punt, White went back to work, ultimately finding Jernighan for his second touchdown of the night with 3:02 to play. Jernighan leaped in the air, caught it, and just barely kept his right foot in bounds to all of a sudden make it a one possession game with just over 3 minutes to play.
However, Marshall drove deep into WKU territory and the WKU offense never got an opportunity to tie the game as the Thundering Herd ran out the clock and held on for a 30-23 victory. The loss drops WKU to 5-5 (3-3 C-USA) as Marshall improves to 7-3 (4-2 C-USA). The Hilltoppers will host rival Middle Tennessee State(5-5 overall) in a game where the winner will be bowl eligible and the loser will have to win their season finale.