Herd comes close
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Entering Saturday's game, Marshall knew Purdue was a tough enough football opponent.
Add that to the Thundering Herd's own mistakes, and it was too much to overcome.
Purdue took a 51-41 victory Saturday, holding off a Marshall comeback effort, before 45,481 spectators at Ross-Ade Stadium.
"I'm proud of our effort but we came in and lost the football game," Marshall head coach Doc Holliday said. "That's unacceptable. If we take care of the football, it's a different game."
Marshall's record slipped to 2-3 while the Boilermakers moved to 3-1. With the loss, Marshall fell to 0-5 all-time against Big Ten Conference opponents.
After trailing by 28 at halftime, Marshall climbed within 45-35 on a 1-yard touchdown reception by Gator Hoskins from Rakeem Cato with 12:53 left to play.
Sensing the momentum switch, Purdue followed with a 13-play, 78-yard scoring march of its own capped by Gary Bush's 7-yard touchdown catch from Caleb TerBush -- their third scoring connection of the day.
Marshall's Jeremiah Taylor blocked the extra point attempt following Bush's touchdown catch, leaving it a two-possession game.
The block came into play when Cato hooked up with Craig Wilkins for a 15-yard score with 3:46 remaining. However, the two-point conversion attempt failed and Purdue recovered the onside kick to essentially salt the game away.
Marshall had one last opportunity trailing by 10 with less than two minutes remaining, but a Cato fumble on third down -- the Herd's fourth turnover of the game -- ended the comeback attempt.
"We turned the ball over at crucial moments and they took advantage of it, so we lost the game," Cato said. "Just little small stuff, little mental stuff.
In the end, the turnovers were the Thundering Herd's undoing.
Marshall outgained Purdue, 534-443, with Cato ending the contest 45 of 68 for a career-high 439 yards and five touchdowns with three interceptions. The 45 completions reset the Marshall record that he set in the loss to Ohio.
Tommy Shuler established a Marshall record for receptions in a game. He caught 19 passes for 200 yards. The 19 passes are the most in an FBS contest this season.
"Nobody can stop him in college," Cato said. "Sooner or later, they'll start figuring out that hes a big-time player and a big-time wide out that you have to double and bracket him."
While Cato and Shuler were connecting, the Herd was able to get back into the contest on account of its defense, which limited the Boilermakers' rushing attack to 149 yards on 53 attempts -- 70 yards below their average.
The Herd defense opened the second half by forcing a three-and-out, which led to a 28-yard scoring pass from Cato to Hoskins -- their second of three scoring connections on the day.
After an interception by Dominick LeGrande produced no points offensively, the Herd defense tightened again and forced a punt, which Jermain Kelson blocked and Derek Mitchell returned 35 yards for a score to cut it to a two-score game at 6:09 of the third quarter.
A 34-yard field goal by Purdue's Paul Griggs extended the lead to 17 before Hoskins' 1-yard TD reception cut it to 10.
Marshall faced a 42-14 deficit at halftime after Purdue returned a pair of interceptions for touchdowns during an error-prone second quarter for the Herd.
Cato threw three interceptions in the second quarter, starting with a pass off the hands of wide receiver Aaron Dobson and into the arms of Antoine Lewis. Five plays later, the Boilermakers caught Marshall in a blitz and TerBush connected with Bush on a 35-yard score to make it 28-14.
On the Herd's next drive, Cato delivered a slant that was behind Shuler who didn't see it and and Ricardo Allen returned it 39 yards for a score.
Marshall drove back into Purdue territory on its next drive, but Cato stared down Davonte Allen and Josh Johnson jumped the route, returning the interception 74 yards for a score to make it a 28-point game.
"We knew that all we needed to do was rattle him one time, and we could keep him rattled," Johnson said. "A lot of their routes are all about timing and we started timing them ourselves and were able to jump a few of them."
It was a five-minute stretch that turned a close game into a blowout at the break, and proved to be the Herd's undoing in the comeback attempt.
"That's the life of college football and that's the life of just football period," Cato said. "The whole momentum switched so fast that it didn't make any sense. We looked back up again and we were down (28) points."
That five-minute stretch negated a strong showing for the Herd in the game's early parts.
Cato started the game connecting on 17 of his first 19 passes for 153 yards and two scores while knotting the game, 14-14, on a 12-yard touchdown pass to Hoskins.
Antavious Wilson caught a 4-yard pass from Cato to open the Herd's scoring after Bush and TerBush had connected on their first score of the game -- a 9-yard pass on the Boilermakers' first possession.
For Purdue, Bush finished with seven receptions for 83 yards with the three scores while Antavian Edison had six catches for 99 yards and a touchdown.
Marshall returns to action Saturday when Tulsa comes to Joan C. Edwards Stadium for Homecoming 2012. Kickoff is 3:30 p.m. and the game will be televised by CBS College Sports.