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Marshall offense returns to its high-scoring self

Oct. 30, 2013 @ 12:00 AM

HUNTINGTON -- While the outcome wasn't exactly as planned in last week's loss to Middle Tennessee, Marshall University's offense got back to its scoring ways of old, which pleased many of the players on offense.

The Thundering Herd's 49 points in a 51-49 game that was decided on the final play represented the third-highest output of the season and the highest road output since the 2012 season finale, a 65-59 double-overtime loss to East Carolina.

The increase in tempo and output were pleasing for head coach Doc Holliday.

"We went into that game thinking tempo the entire game, to be honest, because I think we play better when we go fast," Holliday said.

Marshall finished with 448 yards of total offense while maintaining a solid balance. The Herd rushed for 213 yards while quarterback Rakeem Cato threw for 235 yards and three touchdowns.

It was the type of balance and speed Cato said made the team successful last season. He was happy to see the Herd get back to that type of offensive strategy last week.

"It looked good on film and it felt good during the game," Cato said. "When we needed points, we put up the points we needed. We did a great job of converting third downs -- it was over 50 percent -- which is always a good thing. We just have to continue to get better and make those plays that we missed out on."

Part of the emergence was based on an improved running game.

Running back Essray Taliaferro played one of his best games in a Marshall uniform, rushing for a career-high 134 yards and two scores.

Just as important, though, was Taliaferro's help in protection in the passing game, which allowed Cato more time to find receivers when Middle Tennessee brought the blitz.

Kevin Grooms also returned to the lineup and finished with 50 rushing yards and two scores as he continues to battle back from a high-ankle sprain suffered in the preseason.

Grooms has fond memories of playing Southern Miss.

Last season, Grooms finished with 119 yards and two touchdowns, including a 64-yard scoring burst in the second quarter, as the Herd went into Hattiesburg, Miss., and came away with a 59-24 win.

In that game, Marshall finished with 629 yards of offense.

RECORD BOOK: Marshall wide receiver Tommy Shuler moved into ninth place all-time on the Herd's career receptions list. His six catches last week moved him past John "Fuzzy" Filliez and Randy Moss on the all-time list. He currently has 173 career receptions.

Marshall tight end Gator Hoskins also cracked the top 10 in touchdown receptions for a career last week with his 19th career scoring catch. That passes Nate Poole and LaVorn Colclough, who each had 18.

YOUNG BIRDS: As Southern Miss comes into Joan C. Edwards Stadium, head coach Todd Monken will not be the only new guy around for the Golden Eagles.

Southern Miss has seen 51.4 percent of its on-field players this season be underclassmen, including 20 freshmen.

That includes true freshman quarterback Nick Mullens, who made his first career start last week.

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