CONWAY, S.C. (AP)Marshall coach Charles Huff watched his team overcome adversity all season long. So having to do it once more at the Myrtle Beach Bowl wasn’t a problem.
The Thundering Herd won their fifth straight game to close the season, holding off UConn 28-14 on Monday after leading by four touchdowns.
Marshall’s defense held the Huskies (6-7) without points on two fourth-quarter drives into Herd territory to end the program’s three-game bowl losing streak.
”They battled back,” Huff said. ”But the boys in green battled, too.”
Cam Fancher threw for two touchdowns and Rasheen Ali ran for 92 yards and a score for the Thundering Herd.
The game was seemingly well in hand for Marshall, ahead 28-0 after Ali’s 2-yard touchdown run midway through the third quarter.
But the Huskies rallied with 14- and 24-yard TD runs by Victor Rosa and, after an interception, drove into Marshall territory with 10 minutes to play.
That was as close as UConn (6-7) could get in its first postseason appearance since 2015.
Fancher finished 10-of-20 passing for 93 yards, including a 9-yard scoring pass to Corey Gammage and a 10-yard TD toss to Devin Miller, as Marshall led 21-0 at the half.
Khalan Laborn added 90 on the ground as Marshall put up 210 yards rushing.
Marshall had one of the season’s most surprising victories, winning at No. 19 Notre Dame, 26-21, in September. It ended the regular season as one of college football’s hottest teams and posted its most victories in a season since winning nine games in 2018.
Not that UConn didn’t make it interesting down 28-14. The Huskies got to Marshall’s 42, and when receiver Keelon Marion was bumped on a long pass by defensive back Steven Gilmore without a penalty flag, first-year coach Jim Mora Jr. argued loudly and drew his own 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct flag that stalled the drive.
Mora said he had coached more than three decades and hadn’t seen that called before. ”It was terrible, terrible, terrible,” he said.
Two series later, UConn drove to Marshall’s 8, but Turner was picked off in the end zone by Micah Abraham with 5:09 to go.
Turner was 9 of 27 passing for 166 yards with three interceptions and a fumble.
Damion Babers Jr. had a 34-yard pick six off Turner’s interception for a 14-0 lead. Gammage, Marshall’s receiver, also collected an interception on the final play of the first half on UConn’s Hail Mary attempt.
UConn: The Huskies had won a total of seven games the past five seasons – they didn’t play during the COVID-19-impacted 2020 season – yet looked revived much of the year in Mora’s debut season. UConn has some blocks to build with for next season, especially in the run game where they averaged just under 200 yards per game.
Marshall: The Thundering Herd expect their strong finish to push them into the 2023 Sun Belt Conference championship chase in their second season in the league. Marshall was picked fourth in the Sun Belt’s East Division this season and ended third.
Rasheen Ali led the country in rushing a year ago, but stepped away from Marshall before the season with an undisclosed injury. He played just three games this season and was grateful he returned in time to take part in his team’s bowl victory. Ali was named the game’s MVP.
”It feels so good,” he said. ”I’m super happy.”
UConn: The Huskies get a chance to make a splash early next year as they open at Duke of the Atlantic Coast Conference. If successful, it would mark the second straight season UConn defeated an ACC school after beating Boston College 13-3 this past Oct. 29.
Marshall: Whoever the Thundering Herd play to open the season, they’ll carry one of the country’s longest win streaks. Only seven FBS teams as of Monday had longer win streaks than Marshall’s five in a row.
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