Second half spoiled the Herd’s party
This was supposed to be Alex Thomson’s cotillion.
Everybody knew that.
I mean, Isaiah Green’s knee injury was the worst-kept secret in the country. Even Las Vegas knew about it. So, it was no surprise when Thomson made his debut as Marshall’s starting quarterback Friday night.
It was expected.
What wasn’t expected, however, was for running back Tyler King to steal Thomson’s coming-out party.
But that’s what happened.
Sure, there was a forecast for thunderstorms in the area. But who guessed the lightning bolts would be wearing No. 3?
That was the case as King thundered and bolted during Marshall’s first half against Middle Tennessee.
The irony is the 5-foot-11, 190-pound redshirt sophomore was doing the very same thing as Thomson. Namely, replacing the starter at his position. Just as the graduate transfer was replacing Green at quarterback, King was taking senior Keion Davis’ place at running back.
The only difference was, King hit the ground running.
Late in the first quarter, King ripped off a 19-yard run after Thomson was dropped for a 10-yard loss on a sack. That eventually led to a 33-yard field goal by Marshall’s Justin’s Rohrwasser to tie the score 3-3.
Yet, the Fort Meade, Florida, native wasn’t quite “King For A Day.” On the contrary, with 2:03 remaining in the second quarter, King fumbled the ball away. That eventually led to a five-yard touchdown run by Blue Raiders’ star quarterback Brent Stockstill to tie the score 10-10.
King made up for his miscue by ripping off runs of 11 and 31 yards on back-to-back carries with only a minute remaining in the first half. That led to Thomson’s 11-yard touchdown pass to tight end Armani Levias with 17 seconds remaining in the half.
Besides giving the Herd a 17-10 halftime lead, it also allowed King to reach a milestone. The running back’s previous high for rushing yardage in a game was 129 yards.
But against Middle Tennessee, King had 138 yards on 19 carries — in the first half alone!
What’s even more impressive, King came into the Middle Tennessee
game with just 170 yards rushing on 38 attempts in four games.
Not that King was a oneman gang.
Although the rust of not playing in a game for more than a year clearly showed in Thomson’s performance, the 6-5, 233-pound quarterback had his moments.
With 45 seconds remaining in the first quarter, Thomson rifled a 14-yard pass to Tyre Brady for his first completion. Then Thomson connected with Willie Johnson for a 21-yard reception to Middle Tennessee’s eight-yard line.
That eventually led to a one-yard touchdown plunge by Anthony Anderson to give Marshall a 10-3 lead.
But Thomson also had a 12-yard pass to Levias for a first down, besides scrambling nine yards for another first down.
Now, here’s the problem. As well as King played in the first half, and as much Rustoleum as Thomson sprayed on his right arm, it wasn’t enough to defeat Middle Tennessee.
That’s because King gained only 27 yards on eight carries in the second half. Meanwhile, Thomson was struggling through an 8-for-19 passing performance for only 69 yards with one TD and one interception, while getting sacked four times.
The final sack was the nail in MU’s coffin.
Marshall lost to Middle Tennessee 34-24 Friday night in Edwards Stadium.
The coming-out party was over.
Chuck Landon is a sports columnist for The Herald-Dispatch. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.