Herd tops Tulsa 45-34
TULSA, Okla. - Surviving a rash of fumbles and a squandered 21-0 lead, Marshall finally beat nemesis Tulsa and stayed in the Conference USA East Division race.
The Thundering Herd escaped with a 45-34 victory at H.A. Chapman Stadium, thanks to Rakeem Cato's fifth touchdown pass, an 18-yard lob to Tommy Shuler just past the left pylon. That came with 3:47 left, and Marshall scored again on an Essray Taliaferro 1-yard run with 2:45 left.
That came after Marshall finally sacked Tulsa quarterback Dane Evans, a 20-yard loss on fourth down that put MU at the 4-yard line. After Taliaferro's score, Tiquan Lang intercepted Evans to put the game away once and for all.
The victory improves Marshall to 7-3 overall, 5-1 in C-USA, keeping the pace with 5-1 East Carolina. Tulsa, the West Division favorite who has fallen on hard times, fell to 2-8, 1-5, and lost to Marshall for the first time in five games.
Cato threw for a career-high 456 yards on 33-of-58 passing. He threw an interception late in the first half that prevented Marshall from stretching its lead to 28-0, and he had the first of the Herd's four lost fumbles in the second half.
The Herd took a 31-14 lead into the intermission, but the Golden Hurricane took just seven minutes to slice it to 31-28, and just over 10 minutes to tie it at 31. Fumbles were the main culprit, though drops and one ill-advised penalty contributed.
Cato's fumble came on a sack, giving Tulsa the ball at the MU 15-yard line. Evans scored on a 3-yard keeper to make it 31-21.
Kevin Grooms was the next fumbler, giving up the ball on what would have been a first-down run. The Hurricane drove 54 yards - aided by Evan McKelvey's late hit - and a Trey Watts 1-yard run. Watts, who broke the 1,000-yard barrier for the second year in a row, rushed for 169 yards and two 1-yard TDs.
A fumble didn't lead to the tying field goal, a 29-yarder by Carl Salazar with 4:43 left in the third period. An 18-yard Tyler Williams punt did, an into-the-wind kick further hampered by a 15-yard Tulsa bounce to midfield.
Marshall went from its 14 across midfield on the next possession, when little-used Remi Watson entered the game. On his third rush in a row, Watson fumbled it away, giving Tulsa the ball on its 46.
As the third quarter gave way to the fourth, Evans ran 11 yards on a fourth-and-9, putting the Hurricane on the Marshall 18. Salazar kicked the go-ahead field goal from 30 yards, but it was a victory of sorts for the Marshall defense.
The score stayed at 34-31 for nearly 9 minutes, but the Herd had one more fumble left - Taliaferro's cough-up on the end of a 29-yard reception. Cornerback Austin McDaniel scooped up the ball at the Tulsa 14 and returned it 41 yards.
Tulsa picked up a first down and advanced to the Marshall 35, but Evans took a delay-of-game penalty on fourth-and-8. The Hurricane punted to the Marshall 7 with 7:57 left.
With the wind at its back, Marshall got the better end of an exchange of punts. Tulsa's Dalton Parks managed just a 34-yard punt, which DeAndre Reaves returned 10 yards to the Hurricane 39.
From there, Cato hit Shuler for 19 yards on third-and-8, and for the final 18 two plays later.
Shuler was one of two MU receiver who topped 100 yards - he had 105 on nine catches with two TDs; Devon "Moo Moo" Smith had 114 on seven catches with a score. Gator Hoskins caught two TD passes, tying him for ninth on MU's all-time TD list with 22.
Marshall had its third 600-plus-yard game in a row, running 103 plays and outgaining Tulsa 619-345. Steward Butler, the only MU back who didn't fumble, rushed for 75 yards on 10 carries.
Cato went 11 for 21 for 206 yards in the first quarter alone. It took him just 2:19 into the game to find Shuler for a 28-yard score and 2:05 more to throw a 44-yard bomb to Smith. At the 5:21 mark, he hit Hoskins for his first TD, from 22 yards.
The Herd had a lopsided 244-54 advantage in total yardage at the end of the quarter, but Tulsa had turned the momentum. That happened with 23 seconds left, when Shawn Jackson intercepted Cato at the Tulsa 5. It was Cato's first-ever interception in the red zone, where he has thrown 49 career TDs.
The Hurricane drove 93 yards after that pick, with Watts rushing for 52 and the 1-yard touchdown. After an MU three-and-out, the Hurricane drove 71 yards, with Evans throwing the final 26 yards to Thomas Roberson on an offsides-triggered "free play."
The Herd used Butler to dash that rally. Butler ran four straight times for as many first downs, gaining 61 yards along the way. On third-and-goal at the 6, Hoskins worked himself open for a 28-14 Herd lead.
Tulsa has had ball-security problems all season, and they reappeared in the final two minutes. Evans hit Jordan James near the first-down stake, but Gary Thompson forced the ball out and Neville Hewitt recovered on the Tulsa 39.
The Herd moved to the 14, where Justin Haig booted a 31-yard field goal with 28 seconds left to set the 31-14 halftime margin.
Doug Smock at 304-348-5130, email@example.com or follow him at twitter.com/dougsmock.