Herd steamrolls Eagles
HUNTINGTON -- The smile on the face of Marshall University quarterback Rakeem Cato said it all Saturday afternoon.
Cato and the Thundering Herd offense racked up 636 total yards in a 61-13 dismantling of winless Southern Miss in front of 20,398 fans at Joan C. Edwards Stadium.
The wealth was spread evenly on the afternoon with seven different players scoring touchdowns as the Herd (5-3 season and 3-1 conference) racked up its biggest win and highest point total as a member of Conference USA. The scoring explosion, which was the highest output since a 66-21 win over Buffalo in 2002, started early and often, but it was a defensive play that jumpstarted things for the Herd.
Cato finished the game 21 of 28 passing for 262 yards and five touchdowns before giving way late in the third quarter to backup Blake Frohnapfel, who went 7 of 9 through the air for 70 yards and a score.
"We took it upon ourselves to go out and come together and give it all we've got -- not take anyone lightly," Cato said.
While Cato threw the ball well, it was his decision-making that kept the Herd in rhythm.
"We had some calls that were actually throws, but he checked to runs," Marshall head coach Doc Holliday said. "A lot of the run-pass options, he did a great job of getting us into the right call.
"He managed the game extremely well."
One of the breakout performances of the game came from outside receiver Davonte Allen, who caught three passes for 83 yards and two touchdowns -- a 23-yard score from Cato and a 40-yard score from Frohnapfel.
The 23-yard score from Cato was part of a 28-point first quarter when the Herd broke the game open quickly. On the play, Allen continued to keep running as Cato rolled out to avoid pressure and the junior quarterback hit him in the end zone for his first score of the season.
Allen then doubled his season touchdown output early in the fourth quarter when he took a slant from Frohnapfel and outraced defenders for a 40-yard score.
"It's just a great feeling," Allen said. "Our offense was just moving today. Everything just fell into place and we were making the plays we had to make."
Allen's touchdown catches were two of seven Herd scoring plays that eclipsed 15 yards. Big plays were rampant as the Herd averaged nearly 10 yards per play. Marshall amassed the 636 yards despite running its fewest plays in a game of its season (64).
Tommy Shuler finished with 10 catches for 76 yards and two touchdowns, including a 9-yard score late in the first half that gave the Herd a 35-10 lead at the break after Southern Miss (0-8 season, 0-4 conference) gained a bit of momentum with 10 consecutive second quarter points and sloppy play by the Herd.
After jumping out to a 28-0 lead, Marshall fumbled its first drive of the second quarter when Cato ran into his own blocker, giving Southern Miss possession at the Herd 35. The Herd's defense held on fourth-and-goal, however, to keep the Golden Eagles scoreless.
It appeared Marshall was going to right the ship quickly and once again get on the board when Essray Taliaferro broke free for a long gain. However, Emmanuel Johnson caught Taliaferro at the 5-yard line and punched the ball free. The ball bounded into the end zone for a touchback and the Herd's second turnover in as many drives.
Two plays later, Southern Miss true freshman quarterback Nick Mullens found Markese Triplett for an 81-yard touchdown to get the Golden Eagles on the board. Corey Acosta later added a 39-yard field goal to snap a streak of six misses before Shuler's touchdown catch set the score for the half.
While the offense broke the game open early, it was a play by true freshman Tiquan Lang on defense that got the Herd ignited.
Southern Miss got the ball to start the game and on the third play Lang throttled Tyre'oune Holmes after a catch on a crossing pattern. Brandon Sparrow fell on Holmes' fumble and Cato hit Gator Hoskins for a 27-yard score on the next play to start the offensive barrage.
Marshall's rushing attack had 304 yards with Kevin Grooms and Taliaferro both eclipsing the 100-yard mark on just eight carries each.
Grooms showed that he is getting healthy following an ankle injury, taking a handoff and cutting back for a 75-yard score to account for a bulk of his 109 yards. Taliaferro had 08 yards while Steward Butler had a 59-yard touchdown run.
Mullens of the Golden Eagles completed 24 of 48 for 323 yards with the touchdown to Triplett and an interception while facing relentless pressure. Triplett had with 123 receiving yards.
Southern Miss lost its 20th consecutive game dating back to last season.
Marshall is at home again Saturday for a noon meeting with UAB (2-6, 1-3), which lost Saturday at home to Middle Tennessee, 24-21.
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