Marshall rocks Southern Miss, 59-24
HATTIESBURG, Miss. — When people came to “The Rock” on Saturday, Marshall University decided it wanted to roll.
Marshall used a complete effort on both sides of the football to silence a Homecoming crowd of 24,903 spectators at M.M. Roberts Stadium, known to Southern Miss fans as “The Rock,” in a 59-24 victory over the Golden Eagles in Conference USA action Saturday night.
Rakeem Cato finished the contest 31 of 42 passing for 340 yards and three touchdowns while running back Kevin Grooms rushed for 119 yards and two scores.
Marshall wide receiver Tommy Shuler caught 11 passes for 111 yards. Shuler has been a pass-catching machine for the Thundering Herd this season, but he had not found the end zone since the loss to West Virginia.
He caught a pair of touchdown passes Saturday.
While the offense put up its normally consistent numbers, the real story was the defense keeping Southern Miss offense in check throughout as Marshall built a 28-point lead at the end of three quarters.
Marshall’s defense came into the contest with just five takeaways for the season and came away with three, while also getting five sacks against Southern Miss quarterback Anthony Alford.
Alford, a dual threat freshman with his arms and legs, finished with 77 yards of total offense. He was 9 of 21 passing while rushing 10 times for just 12 yards.
After taking a 14-point lead at halftime, Marshall came out and slammed the door in the second half.
The Herd (3-4, 2-1 C-USA) forced a pair of three-and-outs to open the second half and scored touchdowns following each to break the game open.
Cato hit Shuler on a 1-yard scoring pass to push the lead to 21 before Grooms added an 11-yard touchdown run to seal the game.
The defense pitched a second-half shutout and the Herd led by as many as 42 until Arsenio Favor scored on a 12-yard run for Southern Miss (0-7, 0-3 C-USA) with 2:03 left.
Marshall took a 31-17 lead with a first-half offensive explosion in the first half that featured 374 yards of offense.
The Herd had 15 plays of 10 yards or more en route to 374 yards in the opening half, highlighted by a spectacular run by Grooms.
After a Cato interception was returned 19 yards for a score by Southern Miss’ cornerback Kalan Reed, Grooms seized momentum back when he raced around the left side and sprinted past the defense for a 64-yard touchdown to put the Herd up, 24-10.
Desmond Johnson answered back with a 21-yard score for the Golden Eagles, but Cato found Tommy Shuler on a 25-yard scoring pass, marking the first score for Shuler since the final minutes of the loss to West Virginia.
Marshall had a chance to shut the game down early on a pair of occasions, but allowed the Golden Eagles to get back in the contest.
Leading 17-3, the Herd took over deep in its own territory, but Cato’s pass bounced off the fingers of Andre Snipes-Booker and into the arms of Reed.
After Remi Watson’s 3-yard touchdown gave the Herd a 10-3 lead, Marshall got a break when an unexpected snap hit the Southern Miss quarterback in the facemask and bounced into the arms of Herd linebacker Jermaine Holmes.
Three plays later, Cato hit Antavious Wilson on a 14-yard touchdown pass to push the lead to two scores. Cato caught Southern Miss in a jailbreak blitz and hit Wilson on a slip screen. Wilson made one man miss and trotted into the end zone unscathed.
Marshall returns home for its next two games, starting with next Saturday’s battle with UCF, which is scheduled for 8 p.m. in Joan C. Edwards Stadium.