HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (AP) — Brenden Knox rushed for 101 yards and caught one of redshirt freshman Grant Wells' two touchdown passes to lead No. 22 Marshall to a 20-9 victory over pandemic-depleted Florida Atlantic 20-9 on Saturday.
Marshall (5-0, 3-0 Conference USA) managed enough offense to hold off the pesky Owls (1-1, 1-1).
FAU brought 57 players on its first trip of the season, just above the mandated minimum of 53 available scholarship players during the pandemic. The Owls even held a third-quarter lead before Marshall scored the final 13 points.
With FAU missing both of its starting offensive tackles due to the virus, the Owls were limited to 234 yards of offense.
Marshall came up with another solid performance in stopping the run. FAU quarterback Nick Tronti, who ran for 94 yards in the Owls’ only other game on Oct. 3, was held to minus-45 yards on 11 rushes and was sacked five times. The Thundering Herd entered Saturday third in the nation in rush defense at 68.5 yards per game.
Marshall trailed in a game for the first time this season after Vladimir Rivas kicked a 43-yard field goal to put FAU ahead 9-7 midway through the third quarter.
The deficit didn't last long.
Knox, the preseason Conference USA player of the year, ran 17 yards on third down on the next series and Wells capped the four-play drive with a 41-yard scoring pass to Artie Henry to put Marshall ahead to stay.
A short punt on FAU's next drive set up Marshall inside the Owls' territory, and Shane Ciucci converted a 35-yard field goal for a 17-9 lead.
Wells threw what appeared to be his third interception early in the fourth quarter, but FAU was called for a personal foul in the end zone. No one on the FAU sideline protested Marshall getting to keep the ball, even though it appeared to occur after the interception.
Marshall was given a first down at the FAU 11, leading to a short field goal by Ciucci for the final margin.
Wells finished 18 of 31 for 251 yards.
FAU had a chance to make it a one-possession game but Tronti threw incomplete into the end zone on fourth-and-5 from the Marshall 17 with a little over 3 minutes left.
Knox was bottled up for much of the game but he occasionally found daylight. Knox took a first-quarter screen pass from Wells and went 58 yards down the right sideline to open the scoring.
FAU: The Owls should be commended for staying in the game as long as they did. A total of 43 players who began fall camp did not make the trip, including 28 related to COVID-19. Five of the Owls' first six games were canceled by the pandemic.
Marshall: The Thundering Herd's offensive line got pushed around by FAU's defensive line. Marshall's 385 yards of total offense was 100 yards below its season average.
FAU hosts UTSA next Saturday.
Marshall plays at Florida International on Friday night.
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