BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) Marshall has been winning big all year. Now, the 18th-ranked Thundering Herd has proven it can pull out a tight one.
Defensive lineman Ra’shawde Myers recovered a fumble in the end zone for a go-ahead touchdown with 8:20 left and Marshall stayed unbeaten, rallying past UAB 23-18 Saturday.
Marshall (11-0, 7-0 Conference USA) had its closest game yet and was held to its fewest points all season. Still, the Thundering Herd held off the Blazers (5-6, 3-4) in the final minute and took another step toward a possible New Year’s Day bowl.
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UAB drove to the Marshall 10 with time running down, but Jermaine Holmes tackled Jordan Howard for a loss to end the threat and preserve the win.
”Sometimes throughout the year you’ve got to grind one out, and that’s the definition right there of grinding one out,” said Marshall coach Doc Holliday. ”You don’t like them that way, but at the end of the day I’m proud of the way the football team found a way to win and that’s all that matters.”
Previously Marshall hadn’t won by fewer than 15 points, the margin when The Herd beat Miami (Ohio) 42-27 to open the season.
Marshall led UAB 17-6 at halftime after Rakeem Cato’s 28-yard touchdown pass to Tommy Shuler and a 43-yard scoring pass to Angelo Jean-Louis.
But UAB came back on TD runs of 1 and 10 yards by Howard to lead 18-17 in the fourth quarter. It was the first time all season that Marshall had trailed so late.
With UAB’s Cody Clements trying to pass in his own end zone, Marshall’s Arnold Blackmon caused a fumble that Myers recovered for a score. Marshall got two tries at a 2-point conversion after a miscommunication between the field and the replay official, but both failed.
The Blazers came close to an upset amid uncertainty over the survival of their football program. The school president has said a yearlong planning study of a number of departments includes evaluating the financial viability of football.
First-year UAB coach Bill Clark said he was proud of his players despite the loss.
”With all the adversity and turmoil that has been surrounding them, to come out there and fight like they did today was unbelievable,” said Clark.
Cato was 20-for-38 passing for 284 yards with an interception. He extended his FBS-record streak of consecutive games with a TD pass to 43.
Marshall’s Devon Johnson ran for 171 yards on 20 carries, including a 75-yard rush that had The Herd pushing for a score until Johnson fumbled inside the 5 and the ball squirted out the back of the end zone.
Ty Long kicked field goals of 40 and 36 yards for UAB, which has to beat Southern Mississippi on the road next week to become eligible for a bowl.
The announced crowd of 28,355 was the second-largest of the season for UAB, just behind a September game against Alabama A&M. Still, there were more than 40,000 empty seats at Legion Field.
A decision to shut down the Blazer program would mark just the second time in about two decades that an FBS school has quit football. Pacific gave up the sport in 1995.