Johnson went the final 2 yards as the Herd unveiled its "Cheese formation," with Blake "Big Cheese" Brooks as lead blocker.
Later in the period, defensive end Gary Thompson had the first of his two interceptions, catching his own batted ball at the ECU 18. Cato scored from 4 yards out, stretching out to hit the goal-line pylon with the ball.
"That was kind of a good play by me, just keeping my feet inbounds and knowing where that pylon was," Cato said. "Can't slide there."
The Herd drove 80 yards in the second quarter, with Butler rushing for 34 and Hoskins catching a 3-yard touchdown - his 26th career receiving score, putting him tied for third with Mike Barber on the Herd's all-time list.
That made it 24-0 and the Herd missed two chances to pile it on a little thicker. First, Devon Smith's apparent 59-yard punt-return score was reduced to 11 by a holding penalty, and then Taliaferro fumbled at the ECU 13.
That gave the Pirates some life, and Carden drove them 87 yards for a 2-yard Vintavious Cooper TD. After Damon Magazu intercepted Cato, the Pirates drove to the MU 7, only to settle for a 27-yard Warren Harvey field goal and a 24-10 halftime deficit.
When Deandre Reaves returned the second-half kickoff 42 yards, the Herd was rolling again. Cato was 4 of 5 for 38 yards, and Johnson had another 2-yard TD run in the "Cheese formation." After ECU was again held to a field goal inside the Marshall 10, the Herd led 31-13.
Thompson made it 38-13 with 7:58 left in the third quarter, plucking a screen pass and easily returning it 5 yards for a 38-13 lead. After Carden ran 7 yards, the Herd delivered a three-TD knockout - Johnson on a 52-yard catch and run, Butler on a 14-yard run and Cato on a 12-yard run, the latter to cap a 9-minute, 46-second drive.
ECU's late touchdown, a Cooper 2-yard run, was merely cosmetic. Marshall had long since made its point.
"They came to our house and this is how we played today," said linebacker Evan McKelvey. "We showed up."
Reach Doug Smock at 304-348-5130, dougsm...@wvgazette.com or follow him at twitter.com/dougsmock.