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2011 St. Petersburg - Marshall 20, FIU 10
Posted Dec 21, 2011

2011-2012 Bowls - CFN's Preview & Prediction for the 2011 Beef O’Brady’s St. Petersburg Bowl

2011 Beef O'Brady's St. Pete

Marshall 20, FIU 10

- 2011-2012 CFN Bowl Central

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National Rankings
F   M
80th Total Offense 101st
33rd Total Defense 86th
66th Scoring Offense 98th
16th Scoring Defense 84th
70th Rushing Offense 92nd
23rd Run Defense 61st
69th Passing Offense 73rd
65th Passing Defense 100th
30th Turnover Margin 42nd
Position Rankings
relative to each other
5 Highest - 1 Lowest
F   M
3.5 Quarterbacks 3
3 RBs 3
4 Receivers 3
4.5 O Line 2.5
4 D Line 3.5
4 Linebackers 3.5
4 Secondary 2
3.5 Spec Teams 4
4.5 Coaching 3.5
Marshall 20 … Florida International 10
- CFN Thoughts on the Game

Marshall: The Herd only averaged 2.8 yards per carry and committed eight penalties. … QB Rakeem Cato completed 27-of-39 passes for 226 yards and two scores with a pick … Tron Martinez ran 16 times for 58 yards. … Aaron Dobson caught seven passes for 81 yards and two scores including the catch that sealed the win. … LB Tyson Gale led the team with ten tackles, a sack, and 2.5 tackles for loss.

Florida International: FIU only gained 251 yards of total offense. … Wesley Carroll completed 19-of-29 passes for 150 yards, while Jake Medlock filled in a bit and completed 1-of-3 passes for 13 yards. … Darriet Perry ran nine times for 36 yards. … T.Y. Hilton caught eight passes for 88 yards and ran three times for 23 yards and a score, but he lost a key fumble and didn’t come up with a punt return. … LB Jordan Hunt led the team with 13 tackles, a sack, and two tackles for loss.

(AP) ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Rakeem Cato threw for 226 yards and two touchdowns and Tyler Warner kicked a pair of field goals, helping Marshall beat Florida International 20-10 in the Beef 'O' Brady's Bowl on Tuesday night.

Cato threw TD passes of 31 and 35 yards to Aaron Dobson, the latter putting the game away in the closing seconds. Warner's 39-yard field goal set up by a blocked punt snapped a 10-10 with 5:16 remaining.

Marshall (7-6) overcame a slow start to win five of its last seven games and avoid a losing record in its second season under coach Doc Holliday.

FIU (8-5) was denied a school-record ninth victory and there was speculation that coach Mario Cristobal may be a leading candidate to fill a job opening at Pittsburgh.

Cato, a freshman from Miami who is one of 28 players on Marshall's roster recruited from the state of Florida, completed 27 of 39 passes and was intercepted once. Dobson had seven receptions for 81 yards, including a TD catch that wiped out a 10-3 FIU lead just before halftime.

All-purpose threat T.Y. Hilton scored on a 2-yard run for FIU, which also got a 46-yard field goal from Jack Griffin. Hilton had eight catches for 88 yards, ran for 22 yards on three carries and returned two kickoffs for 36 yards, but quarterback Wesley Carroll had difficulty getting the ball to him in open space in the second half.

Carroll was 19 of 29 passing for 150 yards.

Marshall struggled early against a tough schedule, losing in September to West Virginia, Ohio and Virginia Tech before regrouping late win four of six down the stretch to become bowl eligible and finish second behind Southern Mississippi in the Conference USA East Division standings.

FIU is a relative newcomer to the Football Bowl Subdivision. The Panthers launched their program in 2002, joined the Sun Belt Conference in 2005 and has made steady progress in five seasons under Cristobal, who led the school to its first Sun Belt championship a year ago.

Hilton has been a big part of that success, setting FIU and Sun Belt records for career receiving and all-purpose yards. The senior from Miami caught a TD pass and scored on an 89-yard kickoff return to help the Panthers beat Toledo in last year's Little Caesars Bowl, and FIU showcased his versatility early against Marshall.

The 5-foot-10, 185-pound receiver took a handoff on FIU's first play from scrimmage and ran for 20 yards before fumbling 5 yards backward. He had a 17-yard reception on the next play, then later in the opening quarter gained 14 yards on a catch-and-run to the Marshall 2.

Hilton scored his first rushing touchdown of the season on the next play, giving the Panthers a 7-3 lead.

Marshall answered Jack Griffin's 46-yard field goal that put FIU up 10-3 with a six-play, 55-yard drive that Cato finished with his 31-yard TD pass to Aaron Dobson to make it 10-10 with 23 seconds left in the first half.

Neither team was able to generate much offense in the third and fourth quarters. Zach Dunston blocked a punt to set up Warner's go-ahead field goal, and Cato began the clinching drive from his own 40 after FIU fumbled.

Florida International (8-4) vs. Marshall (6-6) Dec. 20, 8:00, ESPN

Here’s The Deal … Florida International gets an opportunity to play a postseason game in front of plenty of friends and family at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg. For that matter, so, too, will Marshall.

The Thundering Herd roster is loaded with Sunshine State natives, a big reason why the school was so eager to be a part of this December’s Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Bowl when bids were being dispensed. Not only does the program get an additional 15 practices for the current players, but it also has a chance to audition in front of a swath of potential future recruits. Call it a working vacation for second-year head coach Doc Holliday and his assistants.

Marshall is after just its second winning season since 2004, struggling to recapture the magic it enjoyed under Bob Pruett a decade ago. The latest edition has been as inconsistent as the previous few, needing an overtime escape of East Carolina in the regular season finale to qualify for a bonus game. The Herd was a tough group to figure, beating Conference USA winner Southern Miss and Big East co-champ Louisville, yet got run out of town by at least 20 points five different times. Holliday plans to make the most of the extra time with his kids, but especially QB Rakeem Cato, the rookie from Miami who hopes to become the franchise behind center in Huntington.

There something very positive brewing at Florida International under fifth-year head coach Mario Cristobal ... all amid rumors that me might be on to bigger and better things.

This second straight postseason game represents another brick in an evolution that appeared insurmountable just a few seasons ago. However, this 250-mile trek up the state’s western coast seemed unlikely at the beginning of December, even as the Golden Panthers were winning a school-best eight games. The team was on the verge of being boxed out of the Sun Belt’s automatic tie-ins until the Big East was unable to fulfill its allotment of commitments. Enter FIU, a natural fit for a game that was the poorest-attended on the 2010 bowl slate.

Florida International didn’t begin playing football until 2002, making Cristobal a veritable miracle-worker. An even bigger surprise is that the young and upwardly-mobile coach has yet to get swooped up by a larger program. That cruel reality only seems to be a matter of time. In the meantime, the Golden Panthers continue to erect an unlikely success story, one baby step at a time. Okay, so FIU presents zero threat to the Big 3, but in a year that Florida, Florida State and Miami all missed their mark, the still-fledgling program stood out as the lone feel-good story coming from the Sunshine State in 2011.

Players to Watch: Bowls are fantastic for all kinds of reasons. One is that they shine a rare national spotlight on stars from smaller schools. Florida International WR T.Y. Hilton, for instance. As dynamic as anyone across town in a ‘Canes uniform, the senior is a 5-10, 185-pound whippet in the open field, using his jets to burn the opposition on slant patterns and special teams returns. The future NFL Draft pick has caught 64 balls for 950 yards and seven touchdowns, while ranking third nationally in kickoff return average. Hilton will be a particular concern for a Marshall team that’s soft in coverage, both in pass defense and on returns.

Marshall houses an under-the-radar star, too, DE Vinny Curry. A top-flight pass rusher who has the undivided attention of pro scouts, he ranks second nationally with 21 stops for loss, and sixth with 11 sacks. He’s beefed up considerably over the years, yet has maintained the trademark explosiveness needed to beat his man to the pocket. No. 99, however, will get a challenge from tackles Caylin Hauptmann and Rupert Bryan, and the rest of a Golden Panthers line that’s No. 17 nationally in sacks allowed. Curry can be a streaky player who’s been shut out in the sack column this fall when faced against quality pass blockers.

Florida International boasts quality defenders of its own on a veteran unit yielding less than 20 points per game. Marshall will learn early on that there’s no easy way to navigate the Golden Panthers, which allow 3.3 yards a carry, and have yielded a measly two touchdown passes over the last seven games. The Herd will have to contend with an all-star junior at each level of the opposition, DE Tourek Williams, LB Winston Fraser and SS Jonathan Cyprien. Each of the team’s Sun Belt all-stars plays the game hard and very fast, which is going to put the onus on …

… Marshall’s skill players to take a little heat off Cato. The Herd will need to establish some kind of a ground game in order to keep the Panthers honest. The options will be Tron Martinez and Travon Van, who’ve each rushed for more than 500 yards. The former is a tougher-than-he-looks inside runner. The latter, a transfer from Florida, flashed big-play potential in November. If Cato dares to test the FIU defensive backfield, he’ll undoubtedly look in the direction of Aaron Dobson. Not only is the receiver 6-3 and north of 200 pounds, but he’s shown a knack for being the quarterback’s best friend by going up high and making utterly spectacular catches.

Florida International will win if … it keeps Curry from taking the game over.

No. 99 in green has a penchant for becoming the focal point from his side of the field, dominating the opposition, and altering the game’s tempo. The Golden Panthers cannot allow it to happen. No, they’ll need to provide QB Wesley Carroll, the former Mississippi State transfer, with that extra second needed to locate Hilton streaking across the middle or behind some overmatched defensive back. A hurried Carroll is going to neutralize FIU’s best weapon on offense. Plus, Curry is more than just a nasty pass rusher. He can also occupy multiple blockers, and clog up running lanes, a concern for Florida International’s leading rusher Kedrick Rhodes. The sophomore is just the second back in school history to rush for more than 1,000 yards in a season.

Marshall will win if … it has success moving the ball on the ground.

The Thundering Herd needs to achieve balance at Tropicana Field, opening up the field for Cato over the top. Florida International was tough against the run, but hardly impenetrable in 2011, allowing at least 180 yards rushing in losses to Louisiana-Lafayette, Arkansas State and Western Kentucky. Marshall will want to punish the Golden Panthers’ undersized front wall, creating daylight for Martinez and Van to run through. The Herd has not fared well in low-scoring games this fall, going 1-5 when it fails to produce 20 points. Breaking the 20-point threshold in the Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Bowl is going to require more than just tepid support from the team’s running backs.

What Will Happen: Marshall is thrilled to be here. Florida International wants more than just a fun bowl week and some cool swag. It’s after a program-boosting second straight postseason victory.

While both teams can play defense, the Golden Panthers are stronger from front to back. And their offense has an edge in weapons, with Hilton and Rhodes, to go along with a steady senior quarterback who’s thrown just four picks all year. FIU will be a consistent step quicker than the Herd attack, flying all over the field, and forcing Cato into costly mistakes. And while the offense won’t uncork versus Curry & Co., it will get at least a couple of eruptions out of Hilton, who’ll leave an indelible mark on his final game as an amateur.

CFN Prediction: Florida International 30 … Marshall 21
- Click For Latest Line From ATS: FIU -4.5   O/U: 50.5  
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Both teams will be really, really pumped up to play the bowl. It might not be a marquee matchup, but it'll be competitive for four quarters.

By Richard Cirminiello 
NFL scouts in attendance will be most interested in Golden Panthers WR T.Y. Hilton and Thundering Herd DE Vinny Curry.

By Matt Zemek
Two of the best under-the-radar coaching performances were turned in this season by FIU’s Mario Cristobal and Marshall’s Doc Holliday.

By: Barrett Sallee
Follow me on Twitter: @BarrettSallee  
Mario Cristobal gets a chance for more bowl drama. T.Y. Hilton became a household name this time last year. This year, he cements his legacy.

By Russ Mitchell
I'll eat my shorts if either school sees close to $1M off this game

By Terry Johnson
Defenses should rule the day in this contest, with Marshall ranking 3rd nationally in tackles for loss, while FIU ranks 14th in sacks.

By Phil Harrison
Follow me on Twitter @PhilHarrisonCFN
This bowl is exhibit A as to why there are too many. FIU deserves to be there, but a 6-6 Marshall team with some really ugly losses doesn’t deserve the post-season.
Best Bowl Moments

Best Thundering Herd Bowl Moment: While it’s getting hard to recall, Marshall was a postseason regular between 1997 and 2004, routinely arriving as the MAC champion. During that stretch, no game showcased the program’s resiliency and quick-strike offense more than the 2001 GMAC Bowl, an instant classic. In the highest scoring game in bowl history, the Herd and quarterback Byron Leftwich overcame a 30-point halftime deficit to stun East Carolina in double-overtime, 64-61.

Best Golden Panther Bowl Moment: Florida International’s first bowl game arrived last year in the Little Caesars Bowl against Toledo. The mere act of playing in a program’s first-ever bowl game must have been a heady experience for coach Mario Cristobal’s club, but the Golden Panthers then made the occasion even more unforgettable by winning in supremely theatrical fashion. A hook-and-lateral conversion of a late 4th and 17 kept a last-ditch drive alive after Toledo took a 32-31 lead on a successful 2-point try with just over one minute left in regulation. FIU’s Jack Griffin split the pipes on a 34-yard field goal at the gun, and the Golden Panthers walked out of Ford Field in Detroit with a 34-32 triumph. Not bad for a first bowl game, eh?

St. Petersburg Bowl History
2010 Louisville 31, Southern Miss 28
2009 Rutgers 45, UCF 24
2008 South Florida 41, Memphis 14

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