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2011 St. Petersburg Bowl Recap

FIU Golden Panthers vs Marshall Thundering Herd - Marshall 20, Florida International 10

It wasn’t the best advertisement for a 35-game bowl season, but the 2011 St. Petersburg Bowl certainly fired up the Marshall Thundering Herd. It also gave the boys from Huntington, West Virginia, a winning season and a trophy to bring home to their campus. Don’t tell Marshall that this postseason contest against the Florida International Golden Panthers wasn’t a big deal.

This game wasn’t played at a high level or with considerable elegance, to say the least. The total number of punts (16) eclipsed each team’s number of first downs (14 for Marshall, 12 for Florida International). Neither team rushed for 90 yards, let alone 100. Both sides combined to convert just 10 of 32 third downs. The two teams combined for 561 yards, but that overall figure was the product of 128 non-punting scrimmage plays. Doing the simple math, the two teams averaged just over four yards per play, hardly a way to enrapture a sparse crowd of just over 20,000 people at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Florida.

However, for all that this game lacked in terms of atmospherics and top-shelf action, it still featured a vigorous and determined effort from two squads who wanted to end their season the right way. Florida International didn’t win the Sun Belt Conference this season, but it actually improved its regular-season record by two games compared to 2010 (8-4, up from 6-6 last season). Coach Mario Cristobal could very well be on the verge of taking the job as the head coach at the University of Pittsburgh, but he coaxed one more strong defensive performance out of his FIU crew on Tuesday under the big top in “The Trop.” If not for the acrobatics of Marshall receiver Andre Dobson – 7 catches, 81 yards, and two touchdowns, including the game-sealing score on a 35-yard fourth-down touchdown with 30 seconds left in regulation – Florida International would have frolicked to an even greater extent on the defensive side of the ball.

As it was, though, Marshall did find answers in the form of Dobson, and it also found a way to break a 10-all tie in the fourth quarter when its own offense wasn’t moving the ball. The Herd blocked a punt by FIU’s Josh Brisk midway through the final stanza and cashed it into a 39-yard field goal by Tyler Warner for a 13-10 lead with 5:16 left. Marshall then recovered a fumble by FIU star receiver T.Y. Hilton (who fumbled twice on the night) and drove the stake into the Golden Panthers’ heart on Dobson’s late touchdown.

Marshall ends its season 7-6. Don’t think that the Herd support the contraction of the 35-game bowl slate.

By: Matt Zemek
DFN Sports Senior Staff Writer

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