HUNTINGTON — He missed an open receiver here and there Saturday night in Marshall’s 31-26 win over Miami (Ohio), but quarterback Chase Litton was especially upset over his interception late in the first half.
After Omari Cobb recovered a fumble and returned it 12 yards to the Miami 41-yard line, Litton threw an incompletion then hit three straight for 6, 4 and 11 yards. From the Miami 20, he threw another incompletion, then he went for a touchdown.
That could have given the Thundering Herd a nice 28-13 lead, but Miami’s Joshua Allen out jumped the smaller Nick Mathews to pick it off. Miami took a knee and went to the locker room down 21-13.
“The turnover before the half is something a freshman would do,” Litton said. “Threw a 50-50 ball in a situation where I shouldn’t have done it. I missed Trey [Rodriguez] on the wheel route. I’ve got to improve for this team.
“We’re happy as hell for this win, the way the defense played, the way the special teams played, but we’ve the best D-line in the country [at North Carolina State] and we’re going into their house next week; we’ve got some big-time games ahead of us.
“If we’re going to improve, I’ve got to improve.”
He finished 20 of 30 for 208 yards and a touchdown, a 22-yarder to Tyre Brady in the second quarter. His long was 49 yards to Willie Johnson, and his NCAA passer rating was a lukewarm 129.24.
Johnson led in receiving with seven catches for 88 yards. His 49-yarder put Marshall on the Miami 5, setting up a short field goal that gave the Herd a critical two-score lead, 31-20 with 11:31 left.
On the other hand, Johnson’s fumble set up a Miami touchdown, one that gave the RedHawks their only lead at 10-7. Heath Harding returned that fumble 35 yards to the Marshall 3.
“He made a good play; he hit the ball out,” Johnson said. “I didn’t think it was a fumble, but when I saw it on replay, I knew it was a fumble. I just put it in the past and didn’t let it affect my game.”
Cornerback Chris Jackson returned an interception for a touchdown in the third quarter, but he credits a fellow defensive back for delivering the victory.
Later in the third quarter, safety C.J. Reavis was ejected for a targeting foul, and was ejected. Malik Gant, a sophomore with six career tackles, entered and played the rest of the game, or most of it, alongside Brandon Drayton.
Miami had the ball at the 50, first and 5, when Gus Ragland threw down the sideline for James Gardner. The pass connected, but Gant knocked it away.
“I don’t know if a lot of people realize this,” Jackson said, “but at the end of the game, when [No.] 81 caught the ball, Malik came and hit him, and he dropped it when Malik hit him. So Malik really made a play to win the game.”
Marshall will need more of Gant next week. Barring a successful appeal, Reavis will have to sit out the first half next week at N.C. State.
“We’ll see it. If we don’t feel if it’s a good call, we’ll call Gerald [Austin, Conference USA supervisor of officials],” Holliday said. “He’ll evaluate it and he’ll tell us what it is.
Drayton led the Herd with 12 tackles.
Marshall’s defense gave up 429 total yards, but that might be misleading. The Herd gave up 5.0 yards per game, or 4.99 if rounded to the next decimal point. The Herd gave up fewer than 5 yards per play just twice last year, against Middle Tennessee and Morgan State. MU yielded 131 rushing yards, a number it bested just twice last years, against the same two teams.
Litton’s career yardage increased to 5,425, raising him into Marshall’s all-time top 10. His TD pass was his 48th, and he remains seventh. Ryan Yurachek caught only one pass for 8 yards, but it extended his streak of consecutive games with a reception to 29.