ANNAPOLIS, Md. - When Maryland marched 991/2 yards for a go-ahead touchdown Friday in the Military Bowl, Marshall could have unraveled and suffered a heartbreaking loss.
Or the Thundering Herd could have fought back against its soon-to-be Big Ten opponent.
As it happened, this team chose "none of the above," really. Instead, it swiftly answered that long touchdown drive with one of its own, zapping the Terrapins' momentum and eventually leaving Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium with a 31-20 victory.
The result, before a red-dominated crowd announced at 30,163, capped a 10-win season for Marshall, its first since 2002. Its bowl record improved to 8-3 with victories in the last three.
Marshall took the lead for good at 24-20 with a 7-yard Essray Taliaferro run, capping a 63-yard drive. After two defensive stops, the Herd delivered the kill shot on the last two catches of Gator Hoskins' splendid senior year - a 28-yard catch and defender-drag on third-and-11, and his second 8-yard touchdown catch.
When A.J. Leggett forced the game's only turnover, intercepting a C.J. Brown pass, the locals tried to beat the traffic and the few thousand MU fans launched a loud celebration.
It was a great result for a resilient team that played its worst game three weeks ago in the Conference USA championship at Rice.
"Well, these kids never flinched," said coach Doc Holliday. "The one thing I liked about this group is that it didn't matter that they went down the field. They were not concerned about the scoreboard, they were not concerned about anything else except playing extremely hard.
"Being able to respond back from that drive was huge, and get the turnover at the end of the game was good."
Marshall responded to everything, starting with Rakeem Cato's work against the Terrapins' pressure. He completed 28 of 44 passes for 337 yards with three touchdowns, the two to Hoskins and one to Tommy Shuler. Accordingly, Cato was named the game's MVP.
Hoskins caught six passes for 104 yards, solving a third-and-11 with his 28-yard gain. Maryland defenders knew they had to identify him, but couldn't always stop him. Or Cato. Or Shuler, who had nine receptions. And so on.
"The issue that you have when you defend Marshall is they have more than just one weapon," Maryland coach Randy Edsall said, referring to defending Hoskins. "They've got a 1,000-yard rusher [Taliaferro], they had a 97-pass catcher [Shuler], they had a tight end who had 44 catches coming into the game [Hoskins], the quarterback is very good.
"There are matchups you like and some you don't, and we probably could have played a little bit better technically versus him. But we had some deficiencies from the injury standpoint that kept us from playing some of the packages that we'd like to. But he's very good."
So is Cato, and the Terrapins couldn't do much with him either, failing to sack him after doing so on the very first play from scrimmage. And they couldn't get him again despite the Herd offensive line losing right tackle Clint Van Horn in the first possession, and with left tackle Garrett Scott briefly out with an injury.