Cato breaks Chad's record
HUNTINGTON — Quarterback Rakeem Cato broke a Marshall University football record held by legendary Chad Pennington and still wasn’t the story of the game.
The 2012 Conference USA offensive player of the year was overshadowed Saturday afternoon by a Thundering Herd rushing attack that produced a school-record three 100 yard rushers in a 56-14 rout of UAB at Joan C. Edwards Stadium.
Steward Butler rushed for 139 yards, Essray Taliaferro carried for 118 and Kevin Grooms added 108 as Marshall totaled 381 yards on 32 attempts, an almost unheard of average of 11.9 yards per carry. The Herd rolled up 657 total yards in 52 plays to average a school record 12.6 yards per play, snapping the school record of 12.4 set in a 61-0 victory over VMI on Nov. 16, 1991.
Cato broke Pennington’s record for consecutive games throwing a touchdown pass with 27 when he hit tight end Eric Frohnapfel on a 39-yard play with 7:26 left in the first quarter.
“They were playing four in the box — three defensive linemen and one linebacker,” said MU center Chris Jasperse. “When someone does that, we’ll try to run the ball all day.”
Maybe UAB felt as though its defense was on the field all day, but despite a dominant rushing attack, the Herd (6-3 overall, 4-1 C-USA) possessed the ball only half as long as the Blazers. UAB held a 39:01 to 20:59 edge in time of possession, but keeping the ball out of the Herd’s hands didn’t work against a big-play, quick-strike offense.
Butler averaged 19.9 yards on each of his seven carries. Grooms averaged 13.5 and Taliaferro 9.8. Tommy Shuler added 100 yards receiving on six catches despite playing against a defense that featured seven defensive backs much of the game.
“Stew and Grooms can break a play and go 70 yards,” Taliaferro said. “They’re fast. I’m not as fast as they are, but when the line makes holes the way they did, I can run through them, too.”
Taliaferro, who scored two touchdowns, said UAB made running the ball easy by using four and five defenders near the line of scrimmage. When Cato went to the line and saw seven defensive backs, he often checked out of a called pass play and into a run. UAB (2-7, 1-4) never adequately adjusted.
“We really thought they would adjust at halftime,” Taliaferro said. “But I guess they never did. The holes were huge.”
Last season, UAB used a physical running game to upset Marshall 38-31. The Herd never had an answer for Blazers tailbacks Jordan Howard and Darrin Reaves. Howard ran for 154 yards and Reaves for 111. Marshall’s players grew tired of hearing about how they were physically outmanned by UAB. Both UAB backs performed well again, with Howard gaining 123 yards and Reaves 98. They couldn’t, however, match Marshall’s trio.
“All we heard all week was about their running backs,” Taliaferro said. “We heard how they ran on 27 straight plays in a game last week. We competed against them, not just UAB’s defense.”
Marshall head coach Doc Holliday credited his team’s unselfish attitude for the astounding offensive performance.
“The offensive line deserves a lot of the credit,” Holliday said. “They did a good job blocking. Cato did a great job managing the pass-run options. Cato doesn’t care about his stats. He’s so unselfish and has matured. He’s in no way, shape or form selfish.”
Cato finished 14-for-20 for 276 passing yards, a stellar day for most quarterbacks. He was more pleased about the running backs’ effort than his own. Holliday, too, heaped praise on the runners.
“A healthy Grooms is a really good player,” Holliday said. “He’s a home run hitter. When he’s healthy, he can do that. Stew, it’s good to see him back in there.Essray is a nice player.”
Saturday’s game marked the second consecutive week the Herd featured multiple 100-yard rushers. Last week in a 61-13 victory over Southern Miss, Taliaferro and Grooms both topped the 100-yard mark.
Adding a powerfully efficient running game to a potent passing attack makes the Herd a difficult foe to defend against.
“It’s all about winning,” Taliaferro said. “We’re not concerned about stats. We’re concerned about winning the game.”
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