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Dominant second half carries Herd past Miami 52-14

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."

Briefly

  • The touchback has been reintroduced to Marshall special teams. After replacing Justin Haig, true freshman Amareto Curraj belted five of them - one more than the Herd managed the entire 2012 season. To put that in further perspective, Curraj had three in the third quarter, all in succession.
  • There were no major personnel surprises, save for the late foot injury to running back Remi Watson. He announced via Twitter earlier Saturday that he was going to miss the game, but vowed to return next weekend.
  • 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.

  • Several injured players were in street clothes, including Watson, second-string center Cam Dees and linebacker Stefan Houston. Others were receiver Jazz King and linebacker Billy Mitchell. Mitchell suffered another concussion early in camp, and the senior's season is in doubt.
  • Among others in street clothes, injured or healthy, were defensive linemen Joe Massaquoi and Armonze Daniel and linebacker Deon Meadows.

  • Tyler Williams smoked a 65-yard punt, 1 short of his career-high 66 at Rice. He averaged 47.8 yards on his four punts, all in the first half.
  • Reach Doug Smock at 304-348-5140, dougsmock@wvgazette.com or follow him at twitter.com/dougsmock.

    How they scored

    FIRST QUARTER

     

  • Miami: Steve Marck 8 pass from Austin Boucher (Kaleb Patterson kick), 6:49.  Drive: 7 plays, 61 yards, 3:29 elapsed. Key play: Dawan Scott 45 pass from Boucher to Marshall 5. Miami 7-0
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    SECOND QUARTER

     

  • Marshall: Essray Taliaferro 1 run (Justin Haig kick), 10:04.  Drive: 9 plays, 80 yards, 2:58 elapsed. Key play: Kevin Grooms 39 run to Miami 10. Tie 7-7
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  • Marshall: Tommy Shuler 4 pass from Rakeem Cato (Haig kick), 3:44. Drive: 13 plays, 78 yards, 4:04 elapsed. Key play: Steward Butler 6 run on fourth-and-1 to Miami 33. Marshall 14-7
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  • Miami: Spencer Treadwell 2 run (Patterson kick), 1:48.  Drive: 5 plays, 75 yards, 1:56 elapsed. Key play: Rokeem Williams 47 pass from Boucher to Marshall 11. Tie 14-14
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    THIRD QUARTER

     

  • Marshall: Gator Hoskins 20 pass from Cato (Haig kick), 13:17.  Drive: 8 plays, 65 yards, 1:43 elapsed. Key play: Taliaferro 10 run on third-and-10 to Miami 20.  Marshall 21-14
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  • Marshall: Craig Wilkins 16 pass from Cato (Haig kick), 9:23.  Drive: 10 plays, 70 yards, 2:54 elapsed. Key play: Butler successive runs of 14 and 10 yards.  Marshall 28-14
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  • Marshall: Hoskins 14 pass from Cato (Haig kick), 4:20. Drive: 8 plays, 66 yards, 3:04 elapsed. Key play: J'Terius Brown roughing-the-passer penalty, giving Marshall first down at the Miami 14. Marshall 35-14
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    FOURTH QUARTER

     

  • Marshall: FG Haig 35, 13:57. Drive: 10 plays, 46 yards, 2:45 elapsed. Key play: Shuler 16 pass from Cato to Miami 21. Marshall 38-14
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  • Marshall: Devon Smith 54 pass from Cato (Haig kick), 9:57.  Drive: 6 plays, 70 yards, 2:18 elapsed. Key play: Scoring play. Marshall 45-14
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  • Marshall: Raheem Waiters 27 interception return (Haig kick), 9:41. Drive: none. Key play: none. Marshall 45-14
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