Armed with one of the top defenses in the country, Marshall will take on a surprisingly improved UConn team in the Myrtle Beach Bowl on Monday in Conway, S.C.
UConn (6-6) is bowl-eligible for the first time since 2015 under first-year coach Jim Mora Jr. Before losing their regular season finale to Army, the Huskies had a stretch of five wins in six games, capped off by an upset victory over then-ranked No. 19 Liberty.
And who did the Huskies play in that 2015 bowl game? Marshall.
The Thundering Herd (8-4) have been a regular attendee during bowl season recently. This will be the 11th time in the past 14 seasons that Marshall has gone bowling — a streak that began in 2009 and stretches across three head-coaching tenures.
The Herd have lost their last three bowl games, though, and are looking for their first postseason win since 2018.
“I think anytime you can get another game added onto the end of your season, it’s a positive,” Marshall head coach Charles Huff said. “(It is) positive for the seniors, positive for the program, positive for the community and we just happened to hit the jackpot with a good location, phenomenal opponent and being able to extend (the season one more game).”
It was the first season in the Sun Belt Conference for Marshall and it started off with a bang. In Week Two, the Herd went into South Bend, Ind., and upset then-ranked No. 8 Notre Dame 26-21. The Herd lost three of their next four games but finished the season strong with four straight wins over conference opponents. Marshall won those four games by an average score of 22.7-13.5.
Key for Marshall this season has been its defense, which ranks seventh nationally in points allowed per game at 16.2. Marshall’s defense is also fourth in passing completion percentage allowed (52.7), fifth in rushing yards allowed per game (88.8), second in opponent yards per carry (2.8), and fifth in interceptions per game (1.3).
That doesn’t bode well for a UConn team that ranks 115th in FBS in scoring offense, putting up 19.8 points per game.
UConn’s offense this season has been powered in part by freshman running back Victor Rosa. He has nine touchdowns on the season and 561 yards on 124 carries. He scampered for 111 yards against Army.
“The (offensive linemen) are amazing and Christian (Haynes) is getting noticed. It is wonderful,” Rosa told CT Insider. “Best offensive line in the nation. Pound the rock, that is our motto and they have been doing a hell of a job. I can’t thank them enough.”
Jackson Mitchell has been opportunistic for the UConn defense, recovering five fumbles, forcing two fumbles and picking off one pass this season.
Khalan Laborn leads Marshall’s rushing attack with 1,423 yards and 16 touchdowns on 281 totes. Owen Porter is the Herd’s defensive playmaker with 14 tackles for loss, 9.5 sacks, an interception, two forced fumbles, a recovery and two pass breakups. Micah Abraham has five picks this season.
This will be just the second meeting between UConn and Marshall in football. The Herd won the previous matchup — a 2015 home game — by a score of 16-10.
The Myrtle Beach Bowl is played at Brooks Stadium, home of Coastal Carolina. Neither Marshall nor UConn has ever played there before.
–Field Level Media