Herd tops FIU, 48-10
MIAMI -- It wasn't always the prettiest, but Marshall University's football team finally got a convincing road win Saturday evening.
The Thundering Herd overcame a sluggish start to get out of town with a 48-10 win over FIU in front of 15,891 fans at Alfonso Field.
The victory sets up a showdown for the Conference USA East Division title between Marshall and East Carolina at noon Friday in Joan C. Edwards Stadium. The game matches Marshall at 8-3 overall against the Pirates who are 9-2. Both teams are 6-1 in C-USA.
"I told them in the locker room, 'Ultimately, at the beginning of the year, this was your goal -- at the end of the year to have the opportunity to go play for a championship," Marshall head coach Doc Holliday said. "Here it is, so we have to do a great job of preparing."
Marshall quarterback Rakeem Cato completed 15 of 31 passes for 241 yards and four touchdowns -- three of which went to tight end Gator Hoskins, who caught six passes for 137 yards.
Hoskins' three touchdown catches gave him 25 for his career, passing Cody Slate for the Marshall all-time record for touchdown receptions by a tight end and moving him past Troy Brown and Aaron Dobson for fourth all-time by any Herd receiver.
The 6-foot-2, 244-pound senior from Gainesville, Fla., single-handedly put the game away when he made a dazzling one-handed catch for a 40-yard gain to set up his own 15-yard touchdown catch from Cato to break Slate's record.
He followed it with another third-quarter TD catch -- this one a 28-yard score from Cato -- to make it 34-3 at the end of three quarters and allow Marshall's reserves to get some action.
"It was just him coming to me and I'd come to him," Cato said. "He'd tell me what was there and what was not there. He just kept making big catches -- the one-handed catch -- just big plays all night and we needed that."
The offense didn't stop once Cato and Hoskins ended their nights, either. Backup quarterback Blake Frohnapfel took advantage of his on-field time, scoring on a 45-yard touchdown run. Frohnapfel led the Herd with 78 yards rushing.
Frohnapfel also connected with Justin Hunt on a 40-yard touchdown catch late to set the final score. It was Hunt's first TD reception of his career.
"Blake came in against ECU last year and did what he did tonight," Marshall offensive lineman Garrett Scott said. "It's nothing new with all these guys the way we practice."
Despite many mental breakdowns and penalties in the first half, Marshall took momentum at halftime after Tommy Shuler caught a 21-yard touchdown pass from Cato across the middle to give the Herd a 20-3 advantage.
Shuler caught six passes for 74 yards and became the first Marshall receiver in history to have two 80-catch seasons.
A lethargic first half saw the Herd commit seven penalties for 83 yards and also have a field goal blocked while missing a PAT.
FIU led the contest 3-0 at the end of one quarter after a 43-yard field goal by Austin Taylor. It marked the first time in 11 games the Golden Panthers led at the end of one quarter.
Following that drive, however, the Golden Panthers struggled to move the ball offensively as the Herd defense asserted itself. FIU finished the game 4-of-17 on third down conversions.
"Just execute your responsibility and stay in your gaps," Holliday said. "Keep your eyes where they belong and tackle well. After that first drive where they got the field goal, they didn't do a whole lot."
FIU quarterback E.J. Hilliard was sacked seven times -- a season-high for the Herd -- and Marshall allowed just 264 yards of total offense en route to the big win.
Marshall quickly turned the tide in the second quarter when Cato found Hoskins on a 25-yard touchdown pass when the tight end got behind the defense on a post route.
Prior to Shuler's touchdown reception, Steward Butler took the opening handoff of a series, broke three tackles and raced 72 yards for a score to give Marshall a 13-3 lead. The extra point was wide left.
"I wasn't trying to be caught from behind," Butler said. "Once I cleared the linebackers, I knew it was a touchdown."
Hilliard finished 15-of-29 passing for 167 yards. He had a 10-yard touchdown pass to Ya'keem Griner in the fourth quarter for FIU's lone touchdown.
With the win, Marshall has won four straight heading into the clash with East Carolina. The Pirates won their fifth straight Saturday at N.C. State, 42-28.
Last year, the Herd and Pirates went to triple-overtime where East Carolina earned a 65-59 win to end Marshall's season.
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