HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - Chris Jasperse remembers one of the most taxing days of his college football career.
The center and his Marshall team were taking on Rice, and some television decision maker thought it was a good idea to play a 2:30 p.m. game on a September Saturday in Houston.
That's the wrong end of Texas for "dry heat." The theme at the mostly empty Rice Stadium centered on the three H's - hazy, hot, humid.
"The thing I remember most about that game is it was 112 [degrees] on the turf," said Jasperse, Marshall's center. "It was very hot and I think we played over 110 plays, so it was a long day for us up front. That's the thing I remember the most."
That, and the Thundering Herd seemingly had to score on nearly every possession to keep up. It scored on six of 11 drives in regulation plus both in overtime to win 54-51.
It was the first time with Rakeem Cato at starting quarterback the Herd scored more than 40 points in regulation on an FBS defense, not to mention the 54 total.
And those drives featured the first hint the Herd could run the ball. Two weeks earlier, Cato threw 65 passes against Ohio, pretty much by necessity. The 22 running plays in that game netted only 59 yards.
In the shootout against the Owls, Steward Butler erupted for 166 rushing yards and Kevin Grooms added 103. Remi Watson nearly made it a 100-yard threesome, rushing for 84 yards. As a team, the Herd totaled 334 rushing yards despite Cato getting thrown for 19 yards in losses.
"We put in some different things, and I think that was week four [it was]," Jasperse said. "We put in a couple of plays, and it opened up our run game a lot. Our backs did a good job with it, and we just went from there; our outside zone made it from there."
In its 5-7 campaign, Marshall ran for 169.2 yards per game, well ahead of the 120.1 of 2011 and 97.2 of 2010. Entering Saturday's Conference USA championship game at Rice Stadium, the average has grown to 219.9, 232.8 in eight conference contests.
That Marshall rushing game nearly pulled off a double-century last week against East Carolina as the Herd won the East Division and the right to play for the C-USA title. Essray Taliaferro ran for a career-high 161 and Butler added 90.
Those two will be on display at noon Saturday at Rice Stadium, with ESPN2 on the call.
Marshall's run-vs.-pass numbers this fall have taken a slight tilt toward the ground, with 499 rushing attempts compared to 437 passes. The play calls are closer to 50-50 when you consider 22 sacks and the 83 rushing attempts by Cato.