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Marshall Defeats Rice to Help Clinch East Division Title

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The Thundering Herd got revenge for their last loss in last year's C-USA title game. In a game where Rakeem Cato broke Chad Pennington's school record for touchdown, Marshall's defense was the story, as they played arguably the best game of the Doc Holliday era en route to a 41-14 thumping of the Owls.

Rob Leifheit-USA TODAY Sports

I thought Marshall would be up for that game, but I did NOT expect that. Marshall absolutely steamrolled Rice to the tune of 41-14. Marshall's offense was able to get in gear after a relatively slow 1st quarter, leading to a 3-0 1st quarter-time advantage.

However, the Marshall defense was in gear early and often. As a fan, the Herd faithful should be proud of how their team played in such an emotional game with the anniversary of the crash and revenge for last year's title game. Today's win moved the Herd to 10-0, the first time the Herd has done so since 1999. Marshall is the only the fourth team in C-USA history to begin a season 10-0.

For the game, Marshall finished with 581 yards of offense, while Rice finished with only 180 yards. Rakeem Cato had a tremendous game, going 23-37 for 297 yards with 4 touchdowns and 1 interception. His leading receivers were tight end Eric Frohnapfel, who caught 6 passes for 107 yards and 1 touchdown, and receiver Tommy Shuler, who caught 8 passes for 79 yards. Ryan Yurachek, Hyleck Foster, and Deon-tay McManus all also had receiving touchdowns. Devon Johnson paced the Herd on the ground with 199 yards on 27 carries with 1 touchdown.

Today was Johnson's 8th 100- yard rushing game of the season. Also helping the Herd offense on the ground was Steward Butler, who ran for 60 yards on the game.

Marshall's defense had, arguably, their best game defensively in the Doc Holliday era. The Herd held Rice to 99 yards through the air and 80 yards on the ground. Jowan Davis and Darik Dillard combined for 100 yards and 1 touchdown each for the Owls, but the Herd stopped Driphus Jackson for negative 19 yards.

The Herd defense held Jackson to 11-23 passing for 99 yards and no touchdowns and made the Owls pass offense one dimensional, with 9 of the 11 passes caught by Jordan Taylor. Marshall's defense did not have any huge contributors, with no Herd tackler having double digit tackles, it was a great team effort all day.

Player of the Game

Rakeem Cato - Marshall's quarterback had his best game since the Ohio game. Cato did underthrow a ball that was picked off and set up Rice's first touchdown, but Cato was in control of the offense, spread the ball around to more than just Tommy Shuler and Angelo Jean-Louis, and put the Herd in great position to win, even without the effort their defense put on the field.

Devon Johnson had a great day on the ground, but it's hard to pick against the man who broke Chad Pennington's record for touchdowns responsible for on the day the "Chad Pennington Athletics Hall of Fame" opened.

When It Was Over

Devon Johnson's 2-yard touchdown run and the ensuing extra point made the game 34-7 with less than 4 minutes remaining in the 3rd quarter. Marshall's defense had shown their toughness throughout the game, so a sustained, 10-play drive that ate up clock and put the game out of reach for the Owls' offense.

Where We Go From Here

After Middle Tennessee's loss to FIU, Marshall has won the C-USA East. Now, with UAB and Western Kentucky left on the schedule, Marshall has two games to secure the conference championship game in Huntington. The question now remains for Marshall is if two straight dominating performances will finally get the attention of the committee to put them in the top 25. Committee chair Jeff Long has said that scores matter, but "excessive" scoring does not matter, which seems to be pointed at a specific team wearing green and white. Marshall's success over the past two weeks should move them into the top Group of 5 spot and a slot in the Peach Bowl.

For Rice, the loss to the Herd puts them in a tough spot. If the Owls want a rematch for the C-USA championship, the Owls not only must win next week against UTEP, but must hope that Louisiana Tech loses to Old Dominion to set up a winner take all against the Bulldogs the last week of the season for the Western Division crown.

"The Back Page"

Marshall's ticket office had a bunch of promotions today to try and boost attendance, which moderately helped. One of these was a "Coal Miner Appreciation" day, which means a lot for a team whose fan base is predominantly in West Virginia and eastern Kentucky. Due to this, "Friends of Coal" sent their two spokesmen, former WVU coach Don Nehlen and beloved former Marshall coach Bob Pruett. When Nehlen was introduced, he was somewhat booed by the Herd faithful.

From me to you Marshall fans, I'm proud of you.

Don Nehlen coached against Marshall on multiple occasions, and only once at WVU (that's another story for another day coming). Nehlen had moderate success against Marshall at Bowling Green. In 1971, however, Nehlen coached BGSU against the "Young Thundering Herd" and said, "Marshall doesn't have the personnel to run against us".

I don't care if that's the truth, you can't say that the year after the crash. Marshall did run on BG, and actually won 12-10. Plus he coached at WVU, so yeah, good job Herd faithful.