By Bryan Walters
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — It was a thunderous start to the 2016 campaign.
Marshall forced four turnovers, racked up 530 yards of total offense and had eight different players score touchdowns in its season opener Saturday while rolling to a 62-0 non-conference victory over visiting FCS Morgan State at Joan C. Edwards Stadium.
The Thundering Herd (1-0) fumbled on their opening drive of the game, but the hosts responded by scoring on seven of their next eight possessions while establishing a 56-0 advantage six minutes into the third period.
Marshall quarterback Chase Litton accounted for six touchdowns through the air while completing 13-of-16 passes for 309 yards, all of which came in the first half of play. Litton — a sophomore — had a trio of TD passes in both the first and second periods, which helped the Green and White claim a 49-0 halftime advantage.
Wideout Michael Clark started the scoring with 21-yard catch on a fade route to the left corner of the end zone. Clark’s grab completed an 11-play, 72-yard drive for a 7-0 edge with 6:10 left in the opening frame.
Tight end Ryan Yurachek followed with a 58-yard TD catch on Marshall’s next possession, which lasted only two plays and covered 60 yards. Yurachek’s score made it a 14-0 contest with 3:24 left.
Clark hauled in his second TD catch with 2:29 left in the first stanza as the 6-foot-7 redshirt sophomore slipped past three defenders for a 35-yard grab. Litton’s scoring pass to Clark was the only play of that series and gave the hosts a 21-0 lead after one quarter of action.
Deon-Tay McManus capped a seven-play, 73-yard drive by hauling in a jump ball over two defenders for a 31-yard touchdown, making it a 28-0 contest with 13:52 left in the half.
Marshall’s defense got in on the action on the ensuing MSU drive as George Davis returned a fumble 95 yards to paydirt — allowing the Herd to secure a 35-0 cushion with 6:13 left until halftime.
Justin Hunt followed up the Davis score by capping a four-play, 65-yard drive that resulted in a 44-yard TD on a deep ball catch. Hunt’s grab at the 4:29 mark gave MU a comfortable 42-0 cushion.
The Herd completed their first half scoring barrage with a 10-yard scoring pass from Litton to Emanuel Boyd with 47 seconds remaining, which completed a four-play, 70-yard drive for a 49-point advantage.
A heavy rain started at the end of halftime, which led to harsh playing conditions for the reserves that finished out the game.
Tony Pittman tacked on a nine-yard TD run on Marshall’s first possession of the second half, making it a 56-0 contest with eight minutes left in the third.
Ty Tyler completed the scoring with a 20-yard fumble recovery for a touchdown with three second left in the third canto.
With the win, Marshall picked up its eighth straight home victory and are now 19-1 in its previous 20 contests at Edwards Stadium. The Herd also won their sixth straight home opener under seventh-year head coach Doc Holliday.
After finishing plus-3 in turnover differential and allowing only 47 rushing yards in the triumph, Holliday was pleased — for the most part — with the evening went.
He also noted that more of the same effort will be needed next week when Akron comes to town for a noon kickoff.
“I think we played the way we should have played. I thought it was pretty clean, I was disappointed in the turnover on the opening drive. Other than that we took care of the ball which was important,” Holliday said. “In the second half there were a couple things that we have to clean up with the kicking game, a lot of that was some young kids in there who didn’t get their jobs done. We have a great challenge next week against Akron, they have some good players and Terry (Bowden) will have them well coached, so we will be ready go.”
Morgan State had possession of the ball nine times in the first half. After coming up short on a fourth down play on their opening drive, the Bears followed with three consecutive punts, a fumble, an interception and another punt before having the half end on their final drive.
MSU mustered 111 yards of total offense in each half and produced seven of its 11 first downs after the intermission.
Marshall, conversely, produced 109 rushing yards in the first half and added 108 yards on the ground in the second half. The hosts also amassed only four passing yards after the break.
The Herd claimed a 21-11 overall edge in first downs and were flagged eight times for 70 yards. The guests were penalized eight times as well for 66 yards.
Pittman led the MU ground attack with 85 yards on nine carries, followed by Keion Davis with 68 yards on a dozen totes.
Boyd paced the wideouts with three grabs for 58 yards, while Hunt and Clark both hauled in two passes apiece for 57 and 56 yards, respectively.
Amoreto Curraj was 8-of-9 on PAT kicks, which included a miss on his final attempt late in the third quarter. Aaron Dopson joined Davis and Tyler with a fumble recovery, while Corey Neely added a first half interception.
Defensively, MU produced three sacks and nine tackles for loss. Tyler, Ryan Bee and Channing Hames each had a sack for the Herd.
Eric Harrell led Morgan State with 27 rushing yards on four carries and Orlando Johnson had 20 yards on eight attempts.
DeAndre Harris was 9-of-16 passing for 91 yards. Chris Andrews went 6-of-17 passing for 84 yards and a pick.
Thomas Martin led the MSU wideouts with four grabs for 72 yards, while Ladarious Spearman had four catches for 37 yards.
Greg Gibson recovered a first quarter fumble for the guests.
Marshall’s last shutout win came on November 14 of last year during a 52-0 decision over visiting Florida International.
The 62 points were also the most scored by Marshall since November 28, 2014, which came during a 67-66 overtime loss to Western Kentucky. That outcome was also the last time that MU suffered a loss at Edwards Stadium.
Bryan Walters is the sports editor at Ohio Valley Publishing and can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2101.