WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - Rakeem Cato threw the ball around Ross-Ade Stadium like no other quarterback Purdue has seen.
But of his 68 attempts Saturday, three of them went to the Boilermakers, and that's what sank the Thundering Herd. The Boilermakers turned those three into 21 second-quarter points, piled up a 42-14 halftime lead and held on for a 51-41 victory.
Before 45,481 under perfect blue skies, Cato completed a school-record 45 passes out of 68 attempts, which tied a Herd regular-season mark. His 439 yards and five touchdowns were both career marks, but they were more than offset by those three crushing picks.
The first pick came when Aaron Dobson bobbled what should have been a completion into the hands of Antoine Lewis. Marshall was down just 21-14 with 8:37 left in the first half, and would have crossed midfield on a potential tying drive.
But the Boilermakers scored after that on a 35-yard pass from Caleb TerBush to Gary Bush, and then threw two roundhouse blows - a 39-yard interception return for a touchdown by Ricardo Allen and a 74-yard interception return for a score by Josh Johnson on the next two possessions. That gave Purdue (3-1) a 42-14 halftime lead, with an apparent rout ensuing.
The rout never happened. Cato rallied the Herd with a 28-yard TD shot to Gator Hoskins, followed by a Derek Mitchell's 35-yard return of Jermain Kelson's blocked punt in the third quarter. Cato also found Hoskins for a 1-yard TD, Hoskins' third of the game, and Craig Wilkins for 15 yards to close the scoring.
The Herd (2-3) held the Boilermakers to nine second-half points on two lengthy drives, but could never get closer than the final margin. Those three interceptions, one more than Cato had thrown in the Herd's first four games, loomed large throughout.
"I'm proud of their effort, but we lost the game; that's unacceptable," said MU coach Doc Holliday. "You don't take care of the football, it's a different game. They're a good team; they're picked by a lot of people to win their side of their conference [Big Ten].
"I'm proud of the way the kids fought in the second half, and we'll be a better team because of it."