Brian Anderson threw two second-half touchdown passes to freshman Aaron Dobson to lead Marshall to a 34-31 win over SMU on Saturday, making the Thundering Herd bowl eligible for the first time under fifth-year coach Mark Snyder.
Martin Ward ran for 136 yards and a score and Terrell Edwards-Maye added 113 yards for Marshall (6-5, 4-3 Conference USA).
SMU (6-5, 5-2) fell into a first-place tie in the West Division with No. 24 Houston with one game remaining. Houston holds the tiebreaker after beating SMU 38-15 earlier this season. SMU hosts Tulane and Houston hosts Rice next Saturday.
SMU's Kyle Padron threw two TD passes but lost for the first time in four starts since taking over for the injured Bo Levi Mitchell.
Marshall needed career efforts from young players to make up for the absence of their top two playmakers.
Running back Darius Marshall, the nation's 11th-best rusher at 117 yards per game, hurt his left ankle a week ago in a loss to Southern Miss. Tight end Cody Slate ended his career after tearing a ligament in his right knee against Southern Miss.
Dobson caught four passes for 127 yards, including a 40-yard TD pass from Anderson midway through the third quarter. Craig Ratanamorn's 42-yard field goal with 8:55 left in the game put Marshall ahead 27-17.
Ward entered the game with 125 rushing yards for the entire season and doubled his output. His 2-yard scoring run in the first quarter was set up by Dobson's 48-yard catch.
Padron threw a 43-yard scoring pass to Emmanuel Sanders in the third quarter and found Aldrick Robinson from 12 yards out with 5:33 left in the game to bring the Mustangs within 27-24.
SMU got the ball back at its 22 with 4:20 left, but Marshall's Omar Brown intercepted Padron at midfield. Anderson then hit Dobson with a 16-yard scoring pass with 2:01 left. Anderson finished 13 of 22 for 213 yards.
SMU's Zach Line scored on a 9-yard run with 40 seconds left, but Marshall recovered the ensuing onsides kick and ran out the clock.