Marshall had to survive a five-game losing streak in order to clinch bowl eligibility, but the Thundering Herd aren’t through the adversity just yet.
The program will turn to redshirt freshman quarterback Cole Pennington when Marshall takes on UTSA in the Frisco Bowl on Tuesday in Frisco, Texas.
Marshall (6-6) ended its skid by winning two of its last three games, including a 35-21 triumph over Arkansas State in the regular-season finale, to reach the important six-win plateau.
Starting quarterback Cam Fancher finished his season with 2,162 passing yards, 11 touchdowns, 11 interceptions and four rushing scores before entering the transfer portal. Marshall coach Charles Huff told a local TV station that Fancher’s decision didn’t surprise him since “there isn’t a lot of money for NIL (at Marshall) and the fans hate him. The kid has been miserable.”
Huff received blowback for the comments, including from Fancher’s mother.
“I was asked a question by a reporter and I inserted my opinion over facts about a situation, which ultimately created a little bit of a sandstorm,” Huff said. “It was truly based on my opinion of a small minority of fans, and I actually generalized the entire fan base. That was wrong. I take full responsibility for that.”
Fans may have been rankled by the coach’s faux pas, but now they will get to root for the son of a program legend. Pennington’s father is Chad Pennington, who parlayed a decorated career at Marshall into a long NFL career.
However, Cole Pennington had a 0-to-6 touchdown-to-interception ratio in three games filling in for Fancher this season.
“Bowl games are special in themselves,” Pennington said. “They’re just a great way to extend your time with the guys that you built a culture with and a chemistry with the whole season.”
Marshall’s weapons of note are running back Rasheen Ali (1,043 yards, 14 touchdowns) and Jayden Harrison, who has two kick return touchdowns and an FBS-high 31.9 yards per return.
UTSA (8-4) is heading to its fourth straight bowl game under coach Jeff Traylor, but the Roadrunners have yet to win one in the program’s brief FBS history.
The bowl appearance streak includes a trip to the 2021 Frisco Bowl, where No. 24 San Diego State beat UTSA 38-24.
“It’s important for us,” Traylor said. “There’s only a few things left in this program that we haven’t done, and this is one of those things we haven’t done, so for us it takes on a level of importance that’s probably more than most programs.”
UTSA made the move to the American Athletic Conference this season and found immediate success, winning seven straight conference games before a 29-16 loss to Tulane in the regular-season finale.
The Roadrunners offense relies on a pair of first-team All-AAC players, quarterback Frank Harris (2,506 passing yards, 323 rushing yards, 22 combined touchdowns, eight interceptions) and wide receiver Joshua Cephus (82 receptions, 1,049 yards, nine TDs).
“It’s my last (game), you know?” Cephus said. “I’ve been here all my time in college. I can’t miss an opportunity to go out and play with my teammates again. I’ll never have a chance to play college football again, so I’m trying to go out with a bang.”
–Field Level Media