Charlie Strong’s South Florida Bulls did their very best to make a game of their Gasparilla Bowl matchup with the Marshall Thundering Herd. Doc Holliday’s team simply proved too much as they punctuated a victory in the fourth quarter. And, just like that, Marshall won its seventh straight bowl game. The Thundering Herd, in fact, improved to 9-4 on the season and 6-0 in bowl appearances under Holliday. The Bulls, on the other hand, ended their season with their sixth straight loss.
Marshall Controls the First Half
The Herd set the tone in the first quarter when they opened up the scoring about midway through the frame. Marshall set up an Isaiah Green touchdown run using trickery in the form of a flea flicker for a big gain. Then, on the next drive, Marshall’s defense brought pressure early, setting up a misfired snap on the second play. The Herd recovered the fumble and brought it down to the Bulls’ one-yard line. Within seconds, Marshall went up 14-0.
The Bulls countered with some gadgets of their own, running two successive plays out of the wildcat formation. On the second play, wideout Tyree McCants received the snap and, instead of running, threw for an easy touchdown. The Herd fought right back, however, and established the run game in a big way, ending with a touchdown and taking a 21-7 lead.
In the second quarter, the rain poured down, slowing down any aerial attack by either team and allowing Marshall to build a 28-7 lead nearing the end of the half. South Florida showed life at the end of the quarter but settled for a field goal after a 70-yard drive. As a result, Marshall ended the first half with a 28-10 lead.
South Florida Attempts Comeback
South Florida attempted a comeback early in the second half. They opened with another strong drive. Quarterback Blake Barnett threw a dart on fourth-and-six that preserved the opening march. The Bulls, however, again only managed a field goal.
The Bulls then answered another Marshall scoring drive. Barrett commanded the offense and brought it down to close the gap to 31-20. The Bulls’ defense answered by stiffening on the next drive and forcing a Marshall punt. Still down with an opportunity to drive and pull within a single score, however, South Florida was unable to sustain the offense. At the end of the third quarter, the score remained 31-20 (as we predicted here the final score would be).
Marshall followed with a clock-killing six-minute drive ending with a touchdown. The Herd owned a 38-20 lead with just over six minutes left in the game. The next two drives were a microcosm of the teams’ games and seasons. South Florida had an opportunity to extend the game, but Mitchell Wilcox dropped a dart from Barrett on 3rdand long. Another missed opportunity for the Bulls.
On the next possession, the Herd again controlled the clock as Keion Davis rattled off a massive 52-yard run. As it had the entire game, Marshall’s offense controlled the line of scrimmage and broke explosive plays. And South Florida’s defense simply could not keep up. They missed tackles leading to big gains that were otherwise contained early. After the Davis run, Marshall let the clock expire just ten yards from pay dirt.
Marshall proved too much for the Bulls. And by the final score of 38-20, the Thundering Herd won the Gasparilla Bowl marking their seventh consecutive postseason victory.