TROY, Ala. — The Trojans’ offense never reached the end zone, but a defensive touchdown early in the first quarter set the tone for the entire night.
Marshall’s offense never found its rhythm and came up short in a 16-7 loss to Troy on Saturday night in front of 27,514 fans at Veterans Memorial Stadium in Troy, Alabama.
Troy scored the first 10 points of the contest, the first touchdown of the game coming on a 23-yard fumble return for touchdown by defensive lineman Buddha Jones on Marshall’s opening drive to give Troy a 7-0 lead five minutes into the game.
The Trojans (2-2, 1-1 Sun Belt Conference) never surrendered that lead and earned their first win in Sun Belt league play, while handing Marshall (2-2, 0-1 SBC) a loss in its SBC opener.
Brooks Buce made the PAT and later split the uprights on a 40-yard field goal to push the lead to 10-0 with 5:31 left in the first quarter. He made all three of his attempts in the win, outscoring the Marshall offense 9-7.
The Herd’s offense managed one score on a possession, which it took over at the Trojans’ 16-yard line.
“Offensively we’re kind of just spinning our wheels in the mud right now and we’ve got to get it fixed,” Marshall head coach Charles Huff said. “We had some opportunities down the stretch to close the game and put a drive together but just weren’t able to do it.”
On each of the first three drives for Troy, the Marshall defense gave up a play of 40-plus yards, which accounted for most of the Trojans’ offense in the opening 30 minutes.
Troy quarterback Gunnar Watson connected with receivers Marcus Rogers and Tez Johnson for gains of 50 and 63, respectively. DK Billingsly added a 44-yard run on the third drive of the game.
But outside of those three plays, the Trojans collected just 55 yards, lost two fumbles and turned the ball over on downs once.
Yet the Herd’s offense, which rotated Henry Colombi and Cam Fancher in and out of the game at quarterback, couldn’t come up with points off those turnovers, tallying just 83 yards in the opening half. Colombi completed four passes for 23 yards.
Fancher threw just one pass, which was incomplete, and ran twice for two yards.
Troy’s defense, piggybacking off the success they had early, kept pressure on the quarterbacks all night, coming up with big plays in key moments.
Facing second-and-goal from the 10-yard line, T.J. Harris sacked Colombi for a loss of seven, and as the clock rolled down, Marshall reset and spiked the ball to set up the field goal with less than 10 seconds left in the half.
The Trojans tallied five sacks on the night. Carlton Martial finished with 17 tackles and became the all-time leader in tackles in Sun Belt Conference history.
Rece Verhoff’s 34-yard attempt was blocked by Caleb Ransaw and the Herd was held scoreless in the first half for the first time since the 2020 Conference USA Championship game.
The Herd’s Micah Abraham intercepted his third pass of the season on a ball tipped by Elijah Alston, which set up the only score of the day for the Marshall offense, a 14-yard run from Khalan Laborn that put him over 100 yards rushing for the fourth consecutive game and was his sixth touchdown of the season.
Fancher played four consecutive drives for the Thundering Herd, including the scoring drive, but the offense was no more effective with him under center than it was with Colombi.
Marshall punted nine times in the loss — two were taken by Rece Verhoff, and seven off the foot of John McConnell, who pinned the Trojans inside the 20 four times.
The dagger came when Watson again found Johnson for a 58-yard gain, which led to a field goal to extend the lead to 13-7. A 60-yard completion on the next drive set up another kick from Buce, a 29-yard field goal that set the final score at 16-7.