While Cato has room for improvement after his late-game interception cut short a rally against Ohio, a re-ignition of the running game can reasonably be expected. The Owls defense will be chasing ball carriers and respect after being gashed for 533 total yards per game, or about 20 yards per minute of possession time, by its first three foes.
That defense nearly blanked the Herd in the second half of last year's game, allowing only a 23-yard touchdown drive after that game-turning fumble. With a young, struggling defense, the Herd can't afford to suffer scoring droughts today.
Will Marshall sift through Rice's defense by rush, pass or both?
"We're not going to bang our head against the wall. If they're going to try to defend the run, then we're going to throw the football," said MU offensive coordinator Bill Legg. "And if they're going to try to defend the pass, then we're going to run.
"Now if we go down to Rice and they defend the pass, we've got to be able to run the ball 65 times, as effectively as we threw it 65 times last week. At the end of the year, the numbers are going to balance themselves out, and whatever they are, they are."
How well the offense motors along will decide the Herd's fate in what could be a very high-scoring game, and could decide how MU breaks from the gate in Conference USA play.
Marshall players vow to meet the challenge, end the "Texas hex" and get the taste of last week's tough loss out of their collective mouth.
And go 1-0 in Conference USA.
"It's very similar to what we were a year ago when we went to Louisville," Holliday said, referring to the Herd's road win following a loss. "Not a whole lot of difference. I thought they went there and responded well.
"They have to do the same thing this year against Rice because, number one, it's the next game, and two, because it's a conference game. No doubt the conference game makes it more important."
Reach Doug Smock at 304-348-5130 or dougsm...@wvgazette.com.