Herd hammers Western Carolina
HUNTINGTON - Marshall started sloppy and had a breakdown or three on defense in the second half, but used 615 total yards to easily down old Southern Conference foe Western Carolina 52-24.
Rakeem Cato completed 32 of 42 passes for 377 yards and three touchdowns to lead a potent, turnover-free offense. Combined with a 545-yard effort at West Virginia, the Herd has topped 500 total yards in back-to-back weeks for the first time since Oct. 25 and Nov. 1, 2003, when Marshall riddled Western Michigan for 548 and Akron for 573.
Gator Hoskins, Aaron Dobson and Demetrius Evans caught short TD passes in the first half, as the Herd took a 24-3 halftime lead. Steward Butler and Remi Watson had short TD runs and the Frohnapfel brothers connected in the fourth quarter, with Blake throwing 29 yards to Eric.
Along the way, linebacker Devin Arrington victimized former Herd quarterback Eddie Sullivan, who started and went the whole way for the Catamounts. Late in the third quarter, Arrington intercepted Sullivan in stride and waltzed into the end zone for an 18-yard TD return.
Marshall officially ran 94 scrimmage plays, a large number in just 30 minutes, 21 seconds of possession time, and racked up 37 first downs. The statistical wealth was spread widely, with nobody reaching 100 yards rushing or receiving.
Antavious Wilson was close, with six catches for 98 yards. Dobson had nine catches for 81 yards before sitting out the second half. Butler rushed for 60 yards on just eight carries.
"The one stat I'm most proud of is we didn't turn the ball over," said MU coach Doc Holliday. "Defensively we tackled better, but we didn't get off the field because of a few penalties."
Sullivan accounted for all three WCU touchdowns, throwing for one early in the third quarter and running for two in the fourth period. He led the Catamounts in rushing with 50 yards on 10 carries, and went 19 of 40 for 191 yards passing.
He probably deserved a little better on the latter stat.
"Too many times we shot ourselves in the foot. We dropped more balls than we did in the preseason and the spring," said WCU coach Mark Speir.
The Herd opened the scoring with a Justin Haig 24-yard field goal, the consolation prize for a drive that bogged down at the WCU 7. A false start halted momentum gained by Tommy Shuler's 57-yard catch-and-run to the 9.
Two possessions later, Haig missed from 37 yards. It looked ugly when, starting from the MU 18, Travon Van fumbled and Western's Bevans Robbs recovered.
Upon further review from the replay booth, Robbs plucked the ball off the sideline, and the turnover was overturned. Kevin Grooms and Butler combined to cover 73 yards on a drive ending with Gator Hoskins' 1-yard touchdown catch in the first minute of the second quarter.
The Herd scored twice more in the half, using nine-play drives and short TD passes to Dobson and Evans. Cato was 10 of 12 on those two possessions for 115 yards.
For the half, Cato was 20 of 29 for 280 yards. Marshall ran off 50 plays to Western's 29, and outgained the Catamounts 355-120.
In the second half, Marshall failed to convert on a fake punt and the Catamounts drove 53 yards for a touchdown to make it 24-10. But the Herd answered with three quick touchdowns, including Arrington's interception return with 1:46 left in the third.
Reach Doug Smock at 304-348-5130, firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him at twitter.com/dougsmock.