Fancher nets career-high in all-purpose yards, Alston returns INT for TD in 41-35 win

Marshall quarterback Cam Fancher accounted for 380 total yards of offense and the Thundering Herd got an interception return for a touchdown by defensive lineman Elijah Alston to secure a 41-35 win in front of 22,652 fans at Joan C. Edwards Stadium on Saturday afternoon.

With the win, Marshall moves to 4-0 on the season and 1-0 in the Sun Belt Conference. The Herd has now won nine straight games, dating back to the middle of the 2022 campaign.

“Our guys battled,” Marshall head coach Charles Huff said. “We knew it wasn’t going to be a game where Rasheen (Ali) rushed for 260 yards, but we knew we could come out and move the ball as a team. That was the gameplan.”

For the second time this season, Fancher achieved a completion percentage above 80 percent, completing 29 of 35 passes for 278 yards and two touchdowns while rushing for 102 yards on 15 carries.

The 380 all-purpose yards eclipsed his former career high of 337 total yards against Georgia Southern last season.

“Everybody dialed in one what they had to do – their job, their assignment,” Fancher said. “Assignment, alignment, technique – that’s what we say.”

One of Fancher’s biggest plays, however, came on the defensive end as he made a tackle in the Marshall red zone following a turnover that kept ODU (2-3, 1-1 SBC) from a defensive touchdown.

That play was magnified just seconds later as Marshall’s defense made its biggest play of the game – an 85-yard interception return for a touchdown from Alston, a Chesapeake, Virginia, native who grew up just 12 minutes from Old Dominion’s campus.

On the play, Alston stepped in front of a pass to the outside in the flat and out-raced the Old Dominion offensive players to the end zone to cap a run of 28 straight points for the Thundering Herd.

“He didn’t really throw the ball (as hard) as I thought he was going to do to the running back,” Alston said. “It floated a little bit and I was like, ‘Oh, that’s in the air for too long.’ I did what I had to go do. I grabbed it and was down the sideline.”

In all, Alston finished with six tackles, including a half-tackle for loss, the interception return for a touchdown, another pass breakup and three quarterback hurries.

Marshall fell behind 21-3 in the second quarter, but a big kickoff return by Jayden Harrison sparked the Herd offense, who got into the end zone on a 1-yard pass from Fancher to Cade Conley.

The Thundering Herd then cut the lead to 21-17 at the break as Fancher found Caleb Coombs for a 22-yard touchdown. Coombs finished the game with career highs in receptions (8) and receiving yards (76) while scoring his first career touchdown for the Herd.

“We didn’t panic,” Fancher said. “We knew adversity was going to come at some point. It was just about how we handled it from that point on.”

For the fourth straight week, running back Rasheen Ali found the end zone multiple times.

Ali’s 1-yard touchdown to open the third quarter capped a nine-play, 94-yard drive to start the second half, which gave Marshall its first lead of the contest.

Later in the third quarter, Ali added a second 1-yard score that produced a 38-28 lead and gave him his ninth rushing touchdown in four games this season. That touchdown run pushed him into No. 8 on the Marshall scoring charts with 36 career touchdowns.

In the win, Marshall also got interceptions from linebacker Eli Neal – his fourth straight season with at least one interception – and also one from defensive back J.J. Roberts that thwarted a late drive for the lead from the Monarchs.

“The emotions that were going through my head just felt unreal to me,” Roberts said. “If I could put it into words, I would. Everyone was smacking me on the helmet so I couldn’t see straight, but it felt really good.”

Next week, Marshall takes its undefeated record on the road to face ACC member N.C. State in a 2 p.m. contest that will be nationally televised by the CW from Carter-Finley Stadium in Raleigh, North Carolina.

For all the latest information about Marshall Football, follow @HerdFB on Twitter and @Herd_FB on Instagram.

**Press release from HERDZONE – 9/30/2023 8:45:00 PM | Football

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