Just when it looked like the University of Southern Mississippi had allowed Marshall University to tie the game with just over a minute to play, what’s possibly the least-expected play in football took place.
After Marshall quarterback Chase Litton threw his fourth touchdown pass of the game, his third hook-up with tight end Ryan Yurachek, with 1:15 to play, a low snap on the extra point led to a botched point-after attempt, and the Golden Eagles left Joan C. Edwards Stadium with a 28-27 Conference USA victory in the regular-season finale for both.
USM running back Ito Smith rushed for 150 yards and a touchdown, his third consecutive game with at least 150 yards rushing, and quarterback Kwadra Griggs threw for three touchdowns as the Golden Eagles (8-4, 6-2) won their third consecutive game.
Marshall (7-5, 4-4) lost for the fourth time in its last five games.
USM receiver Korey Robertson logged his fifth, 100-yard game of the season with seven catches for 118 yards and a touchdown. Allenzae Staggers had four catches for 27 yards and two touchdowns, including the 9-yard game-winner with 9:44 to play in the game.
Litton threw for 308 yards and four touchdowns, with Yurachek pulling in seven passes for 56 yards and three touchdowns. Receiver Willie Johnson finished with six catches for 86 yards and a touchdown.
After a scoreless first quarter, USM took a 7-0 lead on Smith’s 3-yard touchdown run that capped an 11-play, 80-yard drive. It was Smith’s sixth rushing touchdown in his last three games.
Marshall tied the game on a 26-yard touchdown pass Litton to Johnson, as the Thundering Herd went 87 yards in 10 plays.
The Golden Eagles went back up 14-7 on Griggs’ 16-yard touchdown pass to Robertson, who has caught at least on pass in 25 consecutive games. His touchdown catch was his 11th of the season.
Marshall’s Tyler King returned the ensuing kickoff 36 yards and USM was flagged for a hit out of bounds, setting up the Herd at the Golden Eagles’ 48-yard line. Litton found Johnson for 44 yards, and two plays later, threw a 3-yard touchdown pass to Yurachek to tie the game 14-14 at halftime.
After exchanging turnovers in the third quarter, a Tarvarius Moore interception followed by a Smith fumble, Marshall took a 21-14 lead on Litton’s 11-yard touchdown pass.
But USM answered with Griggs finding Staggers with a 3-yard touchdown pass to tie the game, then connecting with Staggers on the game-winner. The drive was set up by a Marshall fumble recovered at USM’s 46-yard line.
The two scoring passes to Staggers came on third-and-goal plays. Griggs completed 16-of-35 passes for 170 yards and did not throw an interception for the third consecutive week. He also gained 61 yards on 12 carries.
Marshall outgained USM’s 382 yards total offense to 371 yards, but managed just 74 yards rushing.