ECU answered with an 81-yard drive and a Reggie Bullock 5-yard TD run, and Marshall only answered with a Justin Haig 24-yard field goal early in the fourth quarter - a red-zone drive wasted by a false start at the ECU 2.
The quarter ended and Cato gamely re-entered during the changeover, but lasted just one play when the Pirates blitzed him into an incompletion. Frohnapfel, the only scholarship quarterback left with freshman Gunnar Holcombe not on the trip, had to go the rest of the way.
Frohnapfel nearly engineered a win for the ages, starting with that 51-yard fake-and-go that gave Marshall a 45-42 lead.
Strengthening as the game went along, the Herd defense forced a Trent Tignor punt, which died and turned sideways at the 1-yard line. On the next play, Damon Magazu intercepted Frohnapfel, a big-time catch in which he got a toe inbounds.
But the Pirates only got a 39-yard Warren Harvey field goal out of the turnover, and the Herd drove 75 yards to take a 52-45 lead. It was MU's sixth drive of 75 or more yards, and it burned the clock down to the 1:55 mark.
But that was more than enough for Carden, even after he gave MU's defense two free plays with incomplete swing passes to Cooper. Those miscues brought up fourth-and-10.
Hardy, an all-conference candidate who caught 16 passes for 171 yards, found a seam down the middle for that fateful 19-yard reception. He later hit the Herd down the middle for 16 yards and caught another 19-yarder to the MU 11, holding on despite a monstrous hit by Dominick LeGrande.
Three plays later, Carden threw a perfect ball to Webster, and the teams headed into their fourth overtime game in 11 years.
The Pirates struck on their first play, with Andrew Bodenheimer beating Baxter for a 25-yard score. Marshall answered to tie the game at 59 when Wilson caught a 10-yard pass and a 4-yarder for the touchdown.
Marshall got the ball to start the second overtime, and Frohnapfel started with a 9-yard pass to Shuler. Taliaferro took the ball next for what proved to be a season-ending fumble. ECU used Cooper runs of 6, 12 and 6 yards to set up Carden's game-winner.
The Herd's entire trio of "baby backs" was mostly sidelined. Remi Watson didn't dress, and Steward Butler and Kevin Grooms combined for just six carries.
"Grooms was hurt and Butler had a wrist [injury], and I didn't have any choice," Holliday said. "[Taliaferro] was really the only healthy one I had."
But Taliaferro, the junior who came to MU as a walk-on, put in a championship effort in his first 26 carries. Had MU's defense not allowed 555 total yards and that fourth-down pass, he would have needed just the 21 totes he had in regulation.
"They battled, but you know what? We've got to get better on defense," Holliday said.
Reach Doug Smock at 304-348-5130 or follow him at twitter.com/dougsmock.