CFN Take: Marshall Beats LT, Takes C-USA

CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Dec 6, 2014


Marshall Thundering Herd 2014 ... Head Coach: Doc Holliday

Marshall Thundering Herd


2014 Schedule
Record: 12-1

Aug. 30 at Miami Univ. W 42-27
Sep. 6 Rhode Island W 48-7
Sep. 13 Ohio W 44-14
Sep. 20 at Akron W 48-17
Sep. 27 OPEN DATE
Oct. 4 at Old Dominion W 56-14
Oct. 11 Middle Tenn W 49-24
Oct. 18 at FIU W 45-13
Oct. 25 Florida Atlantic W 35-16
Nov. 1 OPEN DATE
Nov. 8 at Southern Miss W 63-17
Nov. 15 Rice W 41-14
Nov. 22 at UAB W 23-18
Nov. 28 WKU L 67-66 OT
C-USA CHAMPIONSHIP
Dec. 6 Louisiana Tech W 26-23
Dec. 6 Conference USA Championship
Marshall 26, Louisiana Tech 23

And You Care Because … Marshall overcame a shaky day with a big fourth quarter, finally taking the lead for good in the final minutes on a five-yard Rakeem Cato pass to Deon-Tay McManus, who also caught a six-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter. However, the Herd offense stalled too often, having to settle for four Justin Haig field goals from 40, 45, 40 and 24 yards out to stat in the game. Louisiana Tech took a 10-0 lead early helped by the first of three Kenneth Dixon touchdown runs from 33 yards out, adding a 30-yarder in the second quarter and a 19-yard play in the third for a 23-16 lead, but that was the team’s final score. The Bulldogs had the ball late with one final shot, but Cody Sokol’s first pass was picked off by Evan McKelvey to seal the Marshall victory.
What Else? Marshall QB Rakeem Cato completed 25-of-46 passes for 308 yards and two scores with a pick, and ran nine times for 28 yards
- Louisiana Tech RB Kenneth Dixon ran 20 times for 156 yards and three scores
- Louisiana Tech QB Cody Sokol completed 7-of-20 passes for 72 yards and a pick
- Turnovers: Marshall 4 – Louisiana Tech 2
Game Rating: B+

Nov. 28 Western Kentucky 67, Marshall 66 OT
And You Care Because … In a wild and crazy game with over 1,400 yards of total offense and giant passing games from both quarterbacks, Marshall’s Rakeem Cato threw his seventh touchdown pass of the game with a 35-yarder to Hyleck Foster in overtime, but WKU answered with Brandon Doughty’s eighth touchdown pass, and then won it on a two-point conversion to Willie McNeal. In an insane shootout with each offense only being stopped by turnovers – Cato threw four picks and Doughty two – Marshall rallied back in the final moments with ten points on a Justin Haig field goal and a five-yard Eric Frohnapfel touchdown catch with 39 seconds to play. Tyler Higbee caught three touchdown passes for WKU, and Davonte Allen and Hyleck Foster each scored twice for Marshall.
What Else? Western Kentucky QB Brandon Doughty completed 34-of-50 passes for 491 yards and eight touchdowns with two interceptions, and Marshall QB Rakeem Cato completed 29-of-46 passes for 417 yards and seven touchdowns with four interceptions
- WKU RB Leon Allen ran 33 times for 237 yards and a touchdown, and caught five passes for 51 yards and a score.
- Total yards: WKU 738 – Marshall 708
- WKU WR Taywan Taylor caught four passes for 122 yards and a score, and Jared Dangerfield caught eight passes for 117 yards and two touchdowns. Marshall WR Davonte Allen caught six passes for 141 yards and two touchdowns, and Tommy Shuler caught ten passes for 132 yards and a score.
Game Rating: A

Nov. 22 Marshall 23, at UAB 18
And You Care Because … The Marshall offense stalled, but the defense came through with defensive lineman Ra’Shawde Myers recovering a fumble in the end zone for the lead for good midway through the fourth. The Herd had a 17-6 halftime lead helped by two Rakeem Cato touchdown passes, but penalties and turnovers became a problem. UAB got two Ty Long field goals in the first half, and two Jordan Howard touchdown runs in the second on the way to an 18-17 lead.
What Else? Penalties: Marshall 11 for 90 yards – UAB 8 for 70 yards
- Marshall QB Rakeem Cato completed 20-of-38 passes for 284 yards and two touchdowns with a pick, and ran nine times for 41 yards
- UAB RB Jordan Howard ran 39 times for 168 yards and two touchdowns, and caught two passes for 16 yards
- Marshall RB Devon Johnson ran 20 times for 171 yards, and Tommy Shuler caught ten passes for 132 yards and a score
Game Rating: B

Nov. 15 at Marshall 41, Rice 14
And You Care Because … Marshall kept on rolling scoring the first 17 points of the game on two Rakeem Cato touchdown passes including a 25-yarder to Hyleck Foster. Rice got on the board with a three-yard Jowan Davis touchdown run, but Marshall answered back with 24 straight points on two more Cato touchdown passes and a two-yard Devon Johnson run.
What Else? Marshall RB Devon Johnson ran 27 times for 199 yards and a score
- Rice QB Driphus Jackson completed 11-of-23 passes for 99 yards
- Marshall QB Rakeem Cato completed 23-of-37 passes for 297 yards and four touchdowns with a pick, and ran five times for 12 yards
- Third down conversions: Marshall 12-of-16 – Rice 3-of-12
Game Rating: D

Nov. 8 Marshall 63, at Southern Miss 17
And You Care Because … Southern Miss got up 14-0 on two, two-yard runs from Ito Smith, but it was all Marshall the rest of the way on a 63-3 run with Remi Watson running for three short scores and Rakeem Cato throwing two first half touchdown passes and running for a ten yard score. Steward Butler tore off touchdown runs from 30 yards out in the second quarter and 83 yards in the fourth. The Herd scored 42 unanswered points.
What Else? Marshall QB Rakeem Cato completed 13-of-19 passes for 186 yards and two touchdowns, and he ran nine times for 92 yards and a score
- Southern Miss RB Ito Smith ran 27 times for 141 yards and two touchdowns
- Marshall RB Stewart Butler ran five times for 118 yards and two touchdowns
- Southern Miss QB Cole Weeks completed 11-of-19 passes for 114 yards with a pick
Game Rating: D+

Oct. 25 at Marshall 35, Florida Atlantic 16
And You Care Because … Marshall struggled early, down 13-7 late in the first half as FAU got two Greg Joseph field goals and a 16-yard Alex Deleon touchdown catch to balance out a 56-yard Devon Johnson run. Johnson was at it again for the Herd, taking off for a 16-yard touchdown, but FAU had the lead going into the locker room on a 24-yard Joseph field goal. It was all Marshall in the second half scoring 21 unanswered points on a 21-yard Tommy Shuler touchdown catch and two more Johnson scoring runs from 66 and seven yards out.
What Else? Marshall RB Devon Johnson ran 24 times for 272 yards and four touchdowns
- Florida Atlantic WR Lucky Whitehead caught 11 passes for 102 yards
- Marshall QB Rakeem Cato completed 13-of-24 passes for 218 yards and a touchdowns
- Florida Atlantic QB Jaquez Johnson completed 19-of-37 passes for 179 yards and a score, and ran 16 times for 61 yards
Game Rating: C

Oct. 18 at Marshall 45, FIU 13
And You Care Because … Marshall QB Rakeem Cato threw four touchdown passes with Devon Johnson scoring from 46 and 27 yards out, the defense got a pick six from Corey Tindal, and Steward Butler ran for a 61-yard score as part of a 45-point run. FIU started out the scoring with a one-yard Alex McGough run, and finished it up with a four-yard Clinton Taylor catch, but Cato was too much in between.
What Else? Marshall QB Rakeem Cato completed 15-of-27 passes for 214 yards and four touchdowns with one interception
- FIU RB Alex Gardner ran 25 times for 104 yards
- Marshall RB Devon Johnson ran nine times for 117 yards, and led the team with 79 yards and two touchdown on three catches
- Time of possession: FIU 38:09 – Marshall 21:51
Game Rating: D+

Oct. 11 at Marshall 49, Middle Tennessee 24
And You Care Because … Marshall got up 14-0 right away on two of Devon Johnson’s three touchdown runs, and Rakeem Cato and the passing game had few problems, too. Cato threw two touchdown passes in the second quarter, ran for a four yard score in the third, and found Craig Wilkins for a second time on the fourth. Middle Tennessee tried to keep pace, with Austin Grammer throwing two short touchdown passes, but Marshall was never threatened after the first quarter.
What Else? Marshall QB Rakeem Cato extended his streak of games with a touchdown pass with 38. He completed 17-of-33 passes for 337 yards and three touchdowns with a pick, and ran for a score
- Middle Tennessee RB Jordan Parker ran 14 times for 100 yards
- Marshall RB Devon Johnson ran 19 times for 134 yards and three touchdowns
- Each team committed eight penalties for 101 yards
Game Rating: C

Oct. 4 Marshall 56, at Old Dominion 14
And You Care Because … Devon Johnson ran for three touchdowns including two in the first quarter, and the Herd came up with a blocked punt for a score on the way to a 28-0 lead before ODU finally got on the board with a 21-yard Zach Paschal catch. Marshall kept on rolling with Rakeem Cato throwing two touchdown passes in the second quarter and Remi Watson running for two scores to get up 56-7 going into the fourth.
What Else? Total yards: Marshall 591 yards – Old Dominion 286 yards
- Marshall QB Rakeem Cato completed 18-of-23 passes for 198 yards and two touchdowns with two interceptions, and ran three times for 20 yards
- Marshall RB Devon Johnson ran 20 times for 198 yards and three scores, and Remi Watson ran 13 times for 102 yards and two scores
- Old Dominion QB Taylor Heinicke completed 10-of-25 passes for 85 yards and a touchdown with an interception
Game Rating: D

Sept. 20 Marshall 48, Akron 17
And You Care Because … Marshall opened up a 24-0 lead early in the second quarter and was never in danger versus Akron. By the time the Zips scored their first touchdown on a Manny Morgan fourth-quarter run, the Herd had already inserted backups into the game. For a change, Marshall leaned on someone other than QB Rakeem Cato, getting five touchdowns and almost 300 yards on the ground.
What Else? The Marshall D allowed plenty of first downs, 25, but kept the Zips in check by creating four turnovers, and generally making stops when it mattered most.
- Herd backs Remi Watson and Devon Johnson both rushed for more than 100 yards, providing the power to complement the passing of Cato. Marshall battered Akron for 7.5 yards per carry.
- The Zip passing game continues to have issues with consistency. Kyle Pohl combined to go just 25-of-52 for 251 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions.
- The game was a penalty-felt that won’t make either staff happy. Marshall and Akron combined for 30 infractions, a whopping 20 from the Thundering Herd.
Game Rating: D

Sept. 13 Marshall 44, Ohio 14
And You Care Because … Marshall delivered its most complete game of the season so far, never getting threatened by Ohio. The Thundering Herd opened up a 41-0 lead, only giving up points after the game was well out of reach. It amassed more than 700 yards of total offense, which created an opportunity for the backups to earn valuable reps in the second half.
What Else? Marshall QB Rakeem Cato was on target, as usual, completing 17-of-29 passes for 425 yards, four touchdowns and a pick. Tommy Shuler is his preferred target, but he got nine combined catches for 295 yards and three touchdowns from Angelo Jean-Louis and Davonte Allen on Saturday.
- While Ohio had 22 first downs, penalties and turnovers prevented the team from turning sustained drives into points on the board.
- Cato alone makes the Herd dangerous. When Steward Butler and Devon Johnson are combining for than 200 yards on the ground, as they did today, Marshall is next to impossible to stop.
- Ohio can win games with Derrius Vick taking snaps, but not when the other team jumps out to an insurmountable lead. Vick accounted for 251 yards and a score, while displaying the ability to make defenders miss in the open field.
Game Rating: D

Sept. 6 at Marshall 48, Rhode Island 7
And You Care Because … The Thundering Herd rolled up 724 yards of total offense including 432 on the ground in the ugly blowout. Rakeem Cato threw two touchdown passes and Steward Butler added two short scores on the way to a 38-0 lead, and then Cato burst out a 63-yard scoring run to put an exclamation point on the performance. Cato completed 15-of-29 passed for 267 yards and two scores and ran nine times for 143 yards and a touchdown. Devon Johnson added 14 carries for 137 yards and a touchdown.
Game Rating: D+

Aug. 30 at Marshall 42, Miami University 27
And You Care Because … Rakeem Cato threw three touchdown passes with two to Eric Frohnapfel, and he ran for a short score, as Marshall jumped out 21-0 and to a 28-3 halftime lead before taking it easy – that was a problem. Miami came rocking back in the second half with three Andrew Hendrix touchdown passes including a 40-yarder to Rokeem Williams to pull within eight late, but Cato led the way to an 11-play, 65-yard drive finishing with his two-yard score. MU’s offense worked for the first time in years thanks to Hendrix, the Notre Dame transfer who threw for 318 yards and three touchdowns and ran for 46, but Marshall’s Devon Johnson ran for 151 yards and two touchdowns and Cato was able to come through late.
Game Rating: B

2014 Preview 

Marshall is poised to erupt into a modern-day version of 1998 Tulane, with QB Rakeem Cato playing the part of Shaun King.

All of the pieces are in place for the Thundering Herd to duplicate what Tommy Bowden’s Green Wave did 16 years ago, sweeping the schedule behind a high-scoring attack.

Marshall is the hands-down class of Conference USA in the preseason, even if it failed to defeat Rice in last December’s league championship game. Cato spearheads a dynamic all-around attack that isn’t going to feel much resistance from a cotton-soft schedule. In fact, it’s going to take an upset to knock off the Herd during the regular season.

Cato has been a revelation for a program that had sunk into mediocrity ever since QB Byron Leftwich graduated in 2002. In the decade that followed, the Herd was 13 games below .500, an uncharacteristically long slump for a school accustomed to title contention.

But the climate around the program began to change in 2013, a 10-win campaign marked by one of the nation’s highest-scoring offenses. A Military Bowl win over Maryland could prove to be the launching point for Marshall’s return to the national spotlight.

The Herd lost last year’s league championship game to the Owls, 41-24. But wearing the crown in 2014 is just one of a number of goals. This team is so flush in returning talent, beyond just its quarterback, that a perfect season is a realistic quest. Cato is the cover boy, but the running game is deep, WR Tommy Shuler is a two-time 100-catch guy and the line features a pair of returning all-stars. Scoring points will not be a problem this fall.

Not to be overlooked, 10 starters return to coordinator Chuck Heater’s D, which took a quantum leap in 2013. Just one year after the Herd yielded 43 points per game, the unit nearly slashed that number in half to rank No. 4 in the league. Marshall, under Heater’s orders, attacks from all angles with speed and tenacity. The defense ought to be every bit as nasty this fall, especially since game-changing DT James Rouse has been granted a sixth year of eligibility.

If college football still had BCS busters, Marshall would be on the short list of teams vying for the right to play in a marquee postseason game. Instead, the Herd will be eyeing some lesser December event that attracts far less attention. Still, the potential is in place for this to be a memorable season in Huntington, the kind in which losses are as uncommon as defensive struggles.

What to watch for on offense: Shuler … and then what? Senior Tommy Shuler can be penciled in for a third-straight 100-catch season, but who else picks up the slack in the receiving corps? The Herd’s second and third-leading receivers, Gator Hoskins and Devon Smith, respectively, leave gaping holes in the passing game. Hoskins, in particular, was a red-zone beast. The staff is excited by the potential of sophomore Justin Hunt, who could be the field-stretcher QB Rakeem Cato needs. Hunt has terrific size-speed numbers, which he used to school DBs throughout the spring.

What to watch for on defense: Hunter’s transition. Junior D.J. Hunter struggled in coverage at times as a safety in 2013, so he’s moving back to strongside linebacker, where he racked up 102 tackles as a rookie in 2012. The coaching staff has no concerns about his overall physical ability. In fact, it recognizes the junior as one of the best all-around athletes on defense. The Herd feels that from the second level, Hunter can once again get back to racking up 8-10 stops per game.

This team will be far better if … both lines can be rebuilt between now and the opener. Marshall has lost three starting offensive linemen and most of the D-line to graduation. Sure, the news that DT James Rouse was granted a sixth year of eligibility generated a sigh of relief out of Huntington. And the Herd is loaded at the skill positions. But the team still has a lot to prove in the trenches, especially when facing opponents content to run the ball in an old-school, north-south fashion.

The Schedule: The Herd get a nice and breezy start to the season with Miami University and Akron on the road wrapped around home games with Rhode Island and Ohio – they need to be 4-0 before kicking off conference play at Old Dominion. It doesn’t get much tougher the rest of the way with the one big showdown against defending C-USA champ Rice at home and without having to deal with back-to-back road games after early October. Getting the Owls along with Southern Miss and UAB from the West isn’t too bad, while the two of the really big tests against Middle Tennessee and WKU are at home.

Best Offensive Player: Senior QB Rakeem Cato. Cato is no longer just the face of the Marshall offense. He’s the face of the program and of Conference USA heading into 2014. Cato runs the show in Huntington, accurately dishing like a point guard for one of the nation’s nine 40-point offenses last season. Sans prototypical size, he’s the total package, with the ability to beat defenses with his arm, his feet and his head. The Thundering Herd is finally back to a 10-win level in large part because of the playmaking ability of No. 12. And both the quarterback and his program are dreaming of even grander achievements this season.

Best Defensive Player: Senior DT James Rouse. When Rouse was granted an additional year of eligibility by the NCAA, Conference USA O-linemen winced. The all-star was one of the league’s toughest linemen to handle in 2013, routinely whipping his guy with a sudden first step and the upper strength to move the line of scrimmage. Rouse plays like a man among boys in the trenches, tossing aside blockers as if they’re running backs. If he attracts double-teams, it’ll give the rest of the line a clearer path to the backfield.

Key players to a successful season: The defensive ends. The Herd needs to provide more support up front for DT James Rouse, who’s easily the program’s best pass rusher. It’s going to require a collaborative effort, from veteran Ra’Shawde Myers stepping up his game to a couple of last year’s reserves flourishing in expanded roles. Marshall is deep and talented in the defensive backfield. That secondary will become downright nasty if the D-line can prevent opposing quarterbacks from checking down to locate an open receiver.

The season will be a success if ... the Herd goes undefeated for the first time since 1999. Sure, a perfect season is never an easy task, regardless of the schedule strength, but Marshall is capable of running the table this fall. In fact, it’s going to require an upset for this program to be taken down in the regular season. As long as Cato stays healthy, there’s no reason for the Herd to shoot below 14-0, ending with a Conference USA title and an exclamation point bowl victory.

Key game: Nov. 15 vs. Rice. The Thundering Herd gets the home game with the Owls that it thought it deserved last December. Marshall traveled to Houston for last year’s Conference USA championship game, and was promptly spanked by 17 points on the road. It’ll be seeking revenge at Edwards Stadium, while possibly maintaining an unbeaten season and a lead in the league’s East Division.

2013 Fun Stats:
- Points per game: Marshall 42.1 – Opponents 22.9
- Third-down %: Marshall 51% – Opponents 34%
- Red-zone touchdown %: Marshall 79% - Opponents 58%

- 2014 Marshall Preview - What You Need To Know & Top Players


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