"When that wind blows, the ball's all over the place at times," said MU coach Doc Holliday. "At the end of the day, we punted them down to the minus-15. Defense found a way to go three-and-out and to get a stop, and they punted the ball and we got great field position and Cato took it down and scored, which is huge."
Marshall seemed to be flipping the 2011 script Thursday night, scoring three times in the first quarter. Cato threw for 206 yards in the first 15 minutes, dialing up 20-plus yard TD passes to Shuler, Devon Smith and Gator Hoskins.
Cato's career-high yardage of 456, on 33-of-58 passing, showed the Herd offense's versatility. The rush/pass totals were nearly equal against Southern Mississippi (304 rush, 332 pass), and run-heavy against Alabama-Birmingham (381-276). In the latter game, the Herd used 32 runs and just 20 passes to gash the Blazers.
But the Herd fumbled just twice against Southern Miss, none against UAB. The four lost fumbles in 19 minutes, 46 seconds at Tulsa nearly put Marshall on the outside in the East Division race.
"I'm proud of the way we played, but we've got to clean up the way we play," Holliday said. "There's no way you should have five or six turnovers and win the football game, [but] we did. That's unusual."
Watson has carried just 19 times this year, for 66 yards. His last carry with the game in doubt came at Florida Atlantic, when he was stopped on a fourth-and-1.
"I thought it was the right thing to do at the time," Blankenship said. "Their offense is really, really good. I just felt like if we gave it back to them [they might score], but our defense had been getting some stops. Probably should have kept the timeout, punted to them, tried to get a stop."
Doug Smock at 304-348-5130, dougsm...@wvgazette.com or follow him at twitter.com/dougsmock.