BIRMINGHAM, Ala. - After a first half in which it tried to make Alabama-Birmingham look like the school down the road at Tuscaloosa, Marshall's bowl hopes are hanging on for dear life.
The Thundering Herd rallied in the second half, but a 31-7 deficit was too much to overcome. UAB used a Darrin Reaves 17-yard touchdown with 2:50 left to seal a 38-31 victory.
The loss before 11,941 at Legion Field erases all margin for error for Marshall (4-6, 3-3 Conference USA), which must defeat Houston and East Carolina to qualify for a bowl game. The Herd's home game next week against Houston, also 4-6, becomes a knockout game.
The late score was the second touchdown for Reaves, who rushed for 182 yards on 31 carries. Austin Brown threw for two touchdowns, 33- and 32-yard shots to Patrick Hearn and Nick Adams, to overcome three interceptions.
Marshall couldn't overcome a dismal first half, in which its 7-0 lead turned into a 24-7 halftime deficit in a rain of long returns, defensive breakdowns and uncharacteristically stagnant offense. When Brown hit Adams with 5:23 left in the third quarter, the Blazers owned the 31-7 lead.
The Herd fought back quickly, with Rakeem Cato hitting Jazz King on a 10-yard scoring pass two minutes later, and Kevin Grooms scoring on a 7-yard run on the first play of the fourth quarter to make it 31-21. The Herd blocked a field goal and Dominick LeGrande returned it 35 yards to the UAB 29, but the Herd could only get a Justin Haig 38-yard field goal to make it 31-24
UAB drove the ball 80 yards after for the game-icing win, with Reaves covering the last 17 yards. Marshall made it close again on a 4-yard TD pass from Cato to Gator Hoskins, but the Herd could not recover the onside kick.
The Herd's day started well, despite a three-and-out on its first possession. As UAB faced third-and-5, Jeremiah Taylor overpowered Brown, knocking the ball free. The scramble pushed the ball nearly 20 yards, and Marshall cornerback Derrick Thomas recovered at the UAB 2. Remi Watson scored on the next play.
Keith Baxter intercepted Brown on the next possession, but the Herd offense stalled at its 38. From there, the crumbling began, as Jackie Williams took the low punt, evaded the first wave of tacklers and found a lot of open space to roam. Punter Tyler Williams sized him up at the Marshall 25, but the returner just did break the tackle to complete the 79-yard score.