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.