By TOM COYNE
SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) — Steven Gilmore returned an interception 37 yards for a touchdown late in the fourth quarter and Khalan Labron ran for 163 yards as Marshall shocked No. 8 Notre Dame 26-21 Saturday, making Marcus Freeman the first Fighting Irish coach to lose his first three games.
Gilmore, the brother of Stephon Gilmore of the Indianapolis Colts, picked off a pass by Tyler Buchner with 4:35 left, raced to the end zone and then jumped into the stands where Marshall fans were already celebrating the victory.
Marshall (2-0), the first Sun Belt Conference team to play at Notre Dame Stadium, beat a team ranked in the top 10 for just the second time in school history. The Thundering Herd beat No. 6 Kansas State 27-20 in 2003.
Freeman, the 36-yeard-old first-time head coach who was promoted after Brian Kelly left for LSU, had lost a bowl game to Oklahoma State and at Ohio State last week. This one will go down much differently to hopeful Notre Dame fans.
The Irish had a streak of 42 straight wins against unranked opponents snapped.
The Herd took a 19-15 lead with 5:16 remaining when Henry Colombi completed a 3-yard touchdown pass to Devin Miller. The score was set up by a 42-yard run by Laborn, who broke a tackle at the line of scrimmage and juked Irish safety Brandon Joseph before breaking free.
Any hope for a comeback by the Irish (0-2) ended when Owen Porter intercepted a pass by backup Irish quarterback Drew Pyne with three minutes remaining. Pyne threw a TD pass with 14 second left to cut the lead to five points.
Colombi was 16-of-21 passing for 145 yards and the Thundering Herd rushed for 221 yards on 49 carries.
The Irish, who struggled offensively a week earlier in a 21-10 loss to Ohio State with a play-it-safe, ball-control game plan, opened the playbook against the Herd but still struggled to get much going.
Buchner was 18-of-32 passing for 201 yards with two interceptions. Buchner also led the Irish in rushing with 44 yards on 13 carries, Michael Mayer had eight catches for 103 yards.
The Irish grabbed a 15-12 lead early in the fourth quarter on a 1-yard run up by Buchner. He then kept it and ran wide right for the 2-point conversion. But the Irish couldn’t mount much of an offense after that.
Two plays with a little over eight minutes left in the third quarter epitomized Notre Dame’s struggles. On third-and-2 from the Notre Dame 47, the Irish couldn’t get the first down on two carries by Audric Estime, coming up 6 inches short as the line couldn’t get much push.
That led to a drive by the Thundering Herd, highlighted by a backward pass by Colombi to Talik Keaton along the left sideline for a 30-yard gain but the drive stalled after Cam Fancher took over at quarterback for Colombi. Marshall drove to the 4-yard line before settling for a 20-yard field goal to go ahead 12-7.
Marshall: Second-year coach Charles Huff, a former Alabama and Penn State assistant, assembled a roster heavy on Power Five transfers such as Labron from Florida State for the school’s first season in the Sun Belt. It paid off with one of the biggest victories in school history.
Notre Dame: The Irish offense showed it still has a lot of work to do, and the honeymoon period for Freeman is probably over.
The respect the Irish gained by playing Ohio State won’t be enough to overcome this poor showing.
Marshall: The Thundering Herd play at Bowling Green on Saturday, their first meeting since 2010.
Notre Dame: The Irish will wear green jerseys when they host Cal on Saturday. It will be the first time the Irish have worn green since 2018. The Irish were 4-0 wearing green during the Brian Kelly era — and will be looking to snap a three-game losing streak in them this time.
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