HUNTINGTON — Garet Morrell’s numbers weren’t great and he led Marshall to a single touchdown in its 60-6 loss to Western Kentucky, but his teammates bragged on him afterward.
It was the second start on short notice for the 6-foot-3 freshman from Leesburg, Georgia, and it came against the second- or third-toughest team on the schedule, WKU. His first career start came against Louisville, then ranked third in the nation.
In both instances, he replaced Chase Litton. The sophomore had shoulder issues, coach Doc Holliday said after the game.
“Ah, man, a lot of respect for that guy,” receiver Josh Knight said of Morrell. “Tough. He’s a true freshman coming in … a lot of love for him. He fought for us.”
He threw 35 passes and completed 19, but only racked up 143 yards, with two interceptions. He had the game’s long play of 32 yards, a toss to Michael Clark on third-and-10 at the WKU 47.
His NCAA passer rating is a 86.61, mediocre at best.
The Herd scored its only touchdown on that drive, cutting the insurmountable lead to 48-6. Alas, the Hilltoppers picked up two points after returning a blocked extra point.
The play-calling was conservative, but not as much as it was in the Herd’s 59-24 loss to Louisville. But it didn’t help Morrell that he was sacked twice and hurried seven times.
The toughest thing the Hilltoppers threw at him?
“Really, the D-line,” Morrell said. “To be an efficient quarterback, you’ve got to have time in the pocket. I love my O-line, we’re going to get on it, they’re going to get on it [but] it’s hard to not have time and make plays happen.”
The drive that helped the Herd avoid its first shutout in 16 years covered 16 plays, 82 yards and took 8 minutes, 49 seconds, the latter an MU season high.
He finished the drive with a 4-yard pass to Ryan Yurachek, who caught his 16th career TD pass. Yurachek missed the Herd’s game last week against Florida International.
“Bum leg or not bum leg, I’ve got faith in him,” Morrell said. “He’s going to make a play.”
Morrell finishes the season 33 of 67 for 290 yards, four touchdowns and three interceptions. His passer rating is 96.36.
The Herd scored for the 207th consecutive game, but it came to the 1:57 mark of the third quarter. The streak dates back to an infamous 42-0 loss at Toledo on Oct. 14, 2000.
MU’s last close call came in a 16-6 loss in heavy rain at Central Florida in 2011. The Herd only scored on a defensive touchdown, a 12-yard fumble recovery by Rashad Jackson with 3:17 left in the third.
The season before, the Herd only scored on a blocked field goal return in the first quarter by Ahmed Shakoor in a 45-7 loss at Ohio State. The Herd lost 24-7 in 2009 and 27-3 in 2008 at West Virginia, but both scores came in the first half.
Other close calls: 31-3 at Miami in the 2007 season opener, 42-7 at Southern Mississippi in the 2006 finale, seven-point games at Kansas State and Tennessee earlier that season, three-point games at Texas-El Paso and Memphis in 2005, a 13-3 loss at Georgia in 2004 and the 45-6 loss at Miami (Ohio) in 2003.
- No, Marshall did not have the biggest collapse in major-college football, as far as the win column is concerned. The Herd fell from 10-3 in 2015 to 3-9.
- That “honor” belongs to Michigan State, which took a dive from 12-2 to 3-9.
- The Herd had just one tackle for loss. Joe Massaquoi made that tackle, throwing Anthony Wales for a 3-yard loss to the Marshall 21-yard line.
- That was rendered moot on the next play, when Mike White completed a 21-yard touchdown pass to Taywan Taylor.
- Kylen Towner’s 93-yard TD return of the opening kickoff was the first such return the Herd has given up since UCF’s Quincy McDuffie struck twice in 2012, a 54-17 Knights win.
- Marshall’s losing home record drops it to 151-30 (.834), tentatively falling from first to third in the FBS. Houston (.857) and Georgia Southern (.837) entered Saturday’s play with higher percentages. Houston’s stadium is in its third year, Georgia Southern is in its 33rd.