Marshall needed every player it had, and every second on the clock to beat the Huntsville Hornets 47-43 last Thursday night at Cy-Fair FCU Stadium.
Behind 43-40 with 45 seconds to go in the game, and facing a fourth down and 11, the Buffaloes needed someone, anyone, to step up and make a play. What they got was practically the whole team stepping up.
On what could have been their last play of the season, Malik Hornsby took the snap from center Andres Arteaga and handed the ball to Korey King on an end around. King was immediately hit but he was able to lateral the ball to Devon Achane who started to run around the end, but stopped on the Marshall 46 yard line and launched a pass to Dalevon Campbell who used all of his six feet and three inches to soar above two defenders at the Huntsville 25 yard line and then, with the help of a block from Kacy Barnett, shrugged off two tacklers to run into the end zone for the game winning score. Angel Martinez kicked the extra point and the Buffs led 47-43.
“Achane had carried us all night but he was getting tired and I felt like I had to do whatever it took to help the team. Whatever it took,” Campbell said.
On the ensuing kickoff, the Hornets started up field, but linebacker Nautica McCarther came flying out of nowhere to deliver a bone-crushing tackle at the Hornet’s 23 yard line.
“Man, I just had to do it for the team. Special teams are important. Coach is always telling us that special teams are important. We work hard on it every day. The team needed me to make that tackle. We just came down and did what we do,” McCarther said.
On the Hornets’ first play, Marshall’s Norman Baker broke up a pass and defensive back Antonio Brooks intercepted the tipped ball to give the Buffs their come-from-behind win.
“I was just covering my man and the ball just popped up in front of me and I just went for it,” Brooks said.
Marshall Head Coach James Williams was thankful after the game.
“Answered prayers, it was answered prayers. God is good. They (Huntsville) were such a good team. We were real blessed to have won that game. We just found a way to win the game. We just stayed positive and played until that last second came off the clock. We were fighting and were going to keep fighting until the end,” Williams said.
Korey King felt the Buffs gave it everything they had.
“We put our heart and soul into this game. Huntsville is a very good team, but we worked harder. We executed the last play just like the coaches told us to. We found a way to push through,” King said.
Marshall took a 20-0 first quarter lead as Achane scored three touchdowns. His first was a 43-yard run, followed by a 1-yard run and then an 86-yard pass from Hornsby.
“It (the pass from Hornsby) was a blitz play. I trusted him to throw me the ball, and he trusted me to catch it,” Achane said.
In the second quarter, momentum began shifting as Marshall snapped the ball over their punter’s head into the end zone for a safety to put Huntsville on the scoreboard. About a minute later Huntsville’s Matthew Southern scored on a 6-yard run and the score was 20-9. Hornsby responded with a 1-yard scoring run, but Southern found Miles Tate for a 4-yard scoring pass to make the halftime score 27-16 in favor of Marshall.
With 7:56 to go in the third quarter, Southern tossed a 19-yard touchdown pass to Cameron Myers. Huntsville kicked a field goal with 4:51 to go in the quarter to bring the Hornets within 1 at 27-26.
Two plays later, Achane scored on a 48-yard run to give the Buffaloes some breathing room at 33-26. With 40 seconds to go in the quarter, Hornsby scored on a 1-yard run and Marshall was up 40-26 at the end of three quarters.
Huntsville would not go away, and Tyrique Carter scored on a 6-yard run to make the score 40-33.
At that point the Buffaloes completely lost their momentum. Another bad snap on a punt caused another safety to make the score 40-35.
With 2:31 to go in the game, Southern found Jaylon Griffin for a 64-yard touchdown pass and Huntsville had its first lead of the game at 43-40. The stage was now set for the big finish.
For the game, Hornsby completed 7 of 17 passes for 181 yards and one touchdown, and he rushed 14 times for 56 yards and two touchdowns. Achane rushed 15 times for 115 yards and three touchdowns. Campbell caught two passes for 95 yards and one game winning touchdown, and Achane had three catches for 96 yards and one touchdown.
The Buffaloes will play Corpus Christi Calallen on Friday at San Antonio.