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HUNTINGTON — Marshall’s winning streak came to an end at the worst possible time for the Thundering Herd on Saturday afternoon.

On a weekend in which the team was looking to honor the 75 victims of the Nov. 14, 1970, plane crash, Marshall couldn’t come up with the plays needed to get past UAB, who earned a 21-14 win over the Herd in front of 19,329 fans at Joan C. Edwards Stadium.

“It really hurts knowing we didn’t get the win,” Marshall linebacker Abraham Beauplan said. “We know what this game means to the city, to the fans.”

The loss was the first in the home game closest to the Marshall plane crash anniversary since 2009 when the Herd lost to Southern Miss, 27-20.

It also puts Marshall in a situation where there is no margin for error moving forward. The Herd must win out if it wants to repeat as East Division champions.

In the end, Marshall could not eliminate the big plays in the UAB passing game early and could not get off the field late as the Blazers earned the win.

“That’s a championship-level football team right there — really good,” Marshall head coach Charles Huff said. “They fought, battled and made some big plays in some big moments. I thought our guys fought hard, played tough all the way through. We just didn’t execute consistently enough to beat a championship team.”

UAB’s biggest drive of the game was one that resulted in zero points.

The Blazers took possession at their own 6-yard line, looking to protect a touchdown lead with 13:31 left.

UAB (7-3, 5-1 C-USA) used its ball-control to salt the game away, getting four third-down conversions to take 10 minutes off the clock before punting back to Marshall, pinning the Herd inside its 20.

Once Marshall (6-4, 4-2 C-USA) took possession, the Blazers’ defense teed off, knowing that Marshall quarterback Grant Wells had to throw the football.

A big sack by UAB’s Kyle Harrell put Marshall behind the sticks before safety Grayson Cash stepped in front of a Wells throw to put the game away.

In a game that came down to execution, it was the Herd that came up on the short side consistently throughout.

Just before UAB’s 10-minute drive, Marshall was driving for what could’ve been a game-tying score to open the fourth quarter.

Wells read a blitz and got the proper protection, lofting a ball to Willie Johnson, who had the ball go off his hands.

“That’s kind of what our team was tonight,” Huff said. “We just didn’t execute consistently enough. We could put out 10 more plays throughout the game that we just didn’t execute.”

Instead of getting a first down inside the UAB 20, Marshall had to punt it away. Wells and the Herd offense was stuck on the sidelines for the game’s next 10 minutes thinking about the missed opportunity.

“It seemed like we were on the sidelines forever there in the fourth quarter,” Wells said. “It’s tough to be on the sidelines for that long.”

While Marshall had issues performing under pressure, UAB had no such issues.

Marshall used a 17-yard touchdown reception by Corey Gammage to tie the game at 14 in the third quarter, but the Blazers answered quickly to re-establish momentum.

Tight end Gerrit Prince caught a 51-yard reception on the first play following the Gammage touchdown, which led to a 1-yard scoring run by UAB quarterback Dylan Hopkins that proved to be the game-winner.

“We’ve been giving up big plays that put us in a tight spot,” Huff said.

Pressure situations include third down, where UAB was 9 of 17 while Marshall was just 1 of 12.

UAB’s strong third-down play started early, which helped the Blazers to an early lead that Marshall could not come back from.

On the first drive of the game, a bad snap forced UAB into a long-yardage situation, but on third and 12, UAB’s Dylan Hopkins found Trea Shropshire — last year’s Conference USA Championship Most Valuable Player — for a 64-yard reception that set up a 3-yard touchdown run by DeWayne McBride just over two minutes in.

Shropshire later added a 36-yard reception that preceded a 15-yard scoring run by McBride that produced a 14-0 lead after one quarter.

The score held there until late in the second quarter when Wells engineered a scoring drive for the Herd, completing six of eight passes on the drive for 87 yards — the last being a 36-yard touchdown pass to Jayden Harrison to cut the deficit to 14-7 at the break.

Wells finished the game 22 of 39 for 232 yards with two touchdowns and one interception.

Hopkins was 13 of 18 for 250 yards with Shropshire and Prince each hauling in 100 yards worth of receptions.

McBride also finished with 108 yards rushing and two scores in the win.

Marshall returns to action on Saturday when the Herd travels to Charlotte for a 3:30 p.m. kickoff.

Grant Traylor is the sports editor of The Herald-Dispatch, who also covers Marshall athletics for HD Media. Follow him on Twitter @GrantTraylor.

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