Grooms makes a play for highlights
If Marshall's Kevin Grooms is working on a highlight reel or ESPN needed a Top 10 play to beam to a national audience at any time Saturday and beyond, the redshirt freshman delivered.
Late in the second quarter of its home finale against Houston, Thundering Herd quarterback Rakeem Cato was under the gun from a heavy pass rush by the Cougars. The sophomore broke free, rolled left and looked back to his right where he spotted Grooms. He flipped the ball to Grooms and the running back took off. He rambled down the right sideline, cut left across the field and wound up going down the left sideline where the last Houston defender took a shot at about the 10 Grooms stayed inbounds and went on to complete a 69-yard TD. The play was ruled a run since it was a backward pass.
Grooms ran for 155 yards on 21 carries, but Marshall needed a late field goal to win, 44-41.
Houston rallied to the the game, 41-41, on a Matt Hogan field goal with 1:18 left. Marshall then drove to Houston's 28 where Justin Haig followed a timeout by the Cougars with a 45-yard kick with seven seconds to go.
"If we get in position, I believe in him," Grooms said of Haig coming through in the clutch.
On the TD before the half, Grooms said he yelled at Cato to get him the ball.
"I screamed to Cato 'I'm open,'" Grooms said. "I caught the ball and had two linemen in front of me and followed them. I cut left and made it in."
Grooms said he used a "Reggie Bush" high step and then made a meaningful "V" signal in the end zone. The "V" was for his daughter Veah who was watching on TV in Florida.
"I kicked up the leg. I learned that from watching Reggie Bush," Grooms said. "I threw up the V for my daughter."
Cato said he was just trying to buy time on the TD by Grooms.
"I hoped a receiver would come back," he said. "I hear, 'Cato, Cato' and he's waving his hands. No one was around him. After that he made a heck of a play."
STREAK GOES ON: Marshall received the opening kickoff for the 16th consecutive game, the longest streak in the country. The scored on the opening drive, the fifth time it's done so in this run.
ATTRITION: At one point of the season, Marshall's running game flourished with backs Steward Butler, Remi Watson and Grooms. The Herd was down to Grooms only on Saturday. Watson departed with a leg injury, watching the game on crutches with his left ankle in a wrap. Butler had his left hand in a cast and looked on as well. Enter Essray Taliaferro, who had seen action in 10 games and rushed for 55 yards and one TD.
"Those guys will have to play," Holliday said of Grooms and Taliaffero. "We'll be all right."
RECOGNITION: Champions from last week's Tri-State Youth Football League Turf Bowl were recognized at halftime Saturday. Ceredo-Kenova teams won the A, B and C division titles. Douglass/Cammack got the D crown.
FAMILIAR FACE: Former Marshall quarterback Carl Fodor took in Saturday's game. He wrapped up his career with the Herd in 1985 under coach Stan Parrish. Fodor ranks in the top 10 in several career passing categories. He's fourth in attempts (1,059), sixth in completions (521), sixth in yards (6,655), eighth in TD passes (39) and seventh in total offense (6,377). Fodor will be in Pittsburgh on Sunday night to watch the Steelers take on the Baltimore Ravens. He'll see another former Herd QB, Byron Leftwich, start for the Steelers.
FLASHBACK: Cato reached into the history book to score in the third quarter. He called a ride-and-read option, pulled the ball and went over from 5 yards out to give the home team a 38-17 lead. He became the 18th Marshall player to score this season, tying Colorado State for thet national lead.
GOT IT: Davonte Allen beat double coverage and caught a 46-yard TD pass from Cato in the second period. It was his second TD and longest catch of the season.
MOVING UP: Herd receiver Tommy Shuler caught nine passes for 105 yards and a TD. He's up to 96 catches for the season, tying him with former Herd tight end Sean Doctor for third place. The single-season leader is Mike Barber with 106 in 1987.
NOT AGAIN: Marshall's problems on kickoff coverage continued Saturday. Houston's Trent Martin reeled off a 65-yard runback in the second period and the Cougars went on to score their first TD.
In the third quarter, the Cougars used some trickeration on a kickoff return to set up a score. Jarrett Irving fielded the squib kick at the 21, drew the coverage team to him and then he fired a crossfield backward pass to teammate Kenneth Farrow who sprinted 61 yards before being knocked out of bounds at the 19. Houston scored on its next play. After the TD, the Cougars tried an onside kick, but the Herd's Craig Wilkins recovered.
In the fourth period, after Haig kicked a 26-yard field goal for a 41-38 lead, Ryan Jackson fielded another squib kick and brought it back 38 yards to the Houston 49. The Cougars then marched to the game-tying field goal.
SO LONG: Marshall and Houston finished 2-2 all-time in C-USA play. Houston is heading to the Big East next season.
David Walsh is a reporter for The Herald-Dispatch. Contact him at 304-526-2759 or firstname.lastname@example.org.