HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - By the time Marshall walked off the field and many of the 27,000-plus fans at Joan C. Edwards Stadium had hit the exits Saturday, everybody had forgotten about the first half.
The halftime score? Tied at 14. The final score? The Thundering Herd won going away, 52-14. And that score didn't tell the entire story of the home team's domination.
Consider this: Marshall's rapid-fire offense didn't show up in the first quarter, gaining just 11 yards and zero first downs. That put the final numbers in frightening perspective.
The Herd finished with 591 total yards. Do your subtraction and that's 580 over the final three quarters. And 34 - THREE-four - first downs to boot.
That offense kind of woke up, didn't it?
Rakeem Cato threw for 253 yards and five touchdowns, a passing game admirably set up by a pulverizing running game. The Herd rushed 57 times for 304 yards, with Steward Butler leading with 107 yards. Essray Taliaferro added 89 and a touchdown, Kevin Grooms 51 and Cato 59, burning the RedHawks four times for a first down.
And remember, the Herd suffered three-and-outs on its first three possessions.
"Maybe the thing I'm most proud about of this team, we talked at the hotel about being able to overcome adversity," said MU coach Doc Holliday. "I thought we were a better team, but I was anxious to see how they handle it. In the first half, tied at halftime, there was adversity but they came out and responded, the way a good football team does."
The offensive explosion wasn't all of the story. The Marshall defense, deservedly maligned in the 2012 schedule, enjoyed its own domination.
The RedHawks gained just 239 total yards, including 92 yards on two plays. Those came on two long passes in first half, 45 yards from Austin Boucher to Dawan Scott and 47 to Rokeem Williams. As it turns out, those plays set up Miami's two touchdowns - 8 yards from Boucher to Steve Marck and Spencer Treadwell on a 2-yard run.
Down 7-0, the Herd broke its first-quarter funk with an 80-yard drive, finished by Taliaferro's 1-yard touchdown. Tommy Shuler gave the Herd a 14-7 lead with a 4-yard reception.
Justin Haig missed a 31-yard field goal that would have given Marshall a halftime lead, but that became a moot point. The Herd scored touchdowns on the first three possessions of the second half, with Gator Hoskins catching TD passes of 20 and 14 yards and Craig Wilkins making a nice snag on a 16-yard pass.
Cato's last scoring strike came in the fourth quarter, when he took advantage of a Miami offsides foul - and therefore a free play - and heaved a 54-yard bomb to Devon "Moo Moo" Smith, the 5-foot-7 speedster.
Riverside High's Raheem Waiters finished the scoring 16 seconds later, at the 9:41 mark, when he picked off a Boucher pass and returned it 27 yards. That gave him more points than his alma mater scored Friday night against Cabell Midland (zero).
That capped the defensive effort, which allowed Miami just two first downs in 13 attempts.
"That defense is playing with a lot of confidence," Holliday said. "We've got a lot of room for improvement, and we'll get better next week. But it's a good start."
At left guard, Sebastian Johansson started but Josh Lovell subbed and played most of the reps the rest of the game. Johansson returned at times, sporting a taped ankle.
At free safety, A.J. Leggett received a substantial number of plays behind starter Taj Letman. Players making their college debuts included Leggett, Kent Turene, Corey Tindal, Curraj, Letman, Gary Thompson, Arnold Blackman, Josh Brown, Andre Scott, Michael Johnson and Michael Selby.
Among others in street clothes, injured or healthy, were defensive linemen Joe Massaquoi and Armonze Daniel and linebacker Deon Meadows.
Reach Doug Smock at 304-348-5140, dougsm...@wvgazette.com or follow him at twitter.com/dougsmock.
How they scored