Marshall football: Herd opens season with 52-14 win over Miami (Ohio)
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. – It's not likely that the Marshall football purposely was trying to match the lopsided score Miami (Ohio) hung on the Thundering Herd in 1971, a drubbing that sparked ill feelings between the Herd and the RedHawks. Regardless, Marshall came pretty close.
The Herd turned a close game into a trouncing with three third-quarter touchdowns and a surprisingly stifling defense, as Marshall opened the 2013 season with a 52-14 win over Miami on Saturday night at Joan C. Edwards Stadium.
It was Marshall's seventh win in the last eight games over Miami, though it was nine seasons between the sixth and seventh victory. The Herd (1-0) beat Miami 33-25 in 2004 and the series stayed dormant until this season. It also marked Marshall's first season-opening win since 2009, when the Herd beat Southern Illinois, 31-28.
The last time Marshall defeated a Football Bowl Subdivision opponent to open the season, the Herd beat Clemson 13-10 to open the 1999 campaign.
For two quarters, though, it was a distinctly different atmosphere at Edwards Stadium, because it was a much different show from the Herd in the first half. Opening-day jitters allowed the RedHawks to stake an early 7-0 lead after quarterback Austin Boucher hit Dawan Scott for a 45-yard strike, then found tight end Steve Marck in the end zone for an eight-yard score.
Meanwhile, the Marshall offense that scorched nearly every opponent in 2012 couldn't gain a single first down in the first quarter and didn't put one on the board until about 12 minutes remained in the half. The offense finally got going in the second quarter, but the Herd and RedHawks went into halftime tied 14-14.
"We talked at the hotel (on Friday) about being able to overcome adversity," Holliday said. "I said I know we're a better football team, but I'm anxious to see how you handle that.
"Going in there tied up at halftime, I thought there was some adversity," he added. "But they came out the second half and responded the way that a good football team does, and that was great to see."
As soon as Marshall emerged from the locker room, its offense was back to its high-tempo, high-output self and its defense showed resilience it rarely showed in 2012. Herd quarterback Rakeem Cato threw three third-quarter touchdowns – 20-yard and 14-yard passes to tight end Gator Hoskins sandwiching a 16-yard strike to Craig Wilkins – and five overall. He finished the night with 253 yards and no interceptions on 22-of-34 passing. Marshall also rolled up 304 rushing yards for the game.
The defense, among the nation's worst last season, gave Miami no room to move in the second half. The RedHawks could gain just 55 yards were held scoreless in the final two quarters. After completing nine of 12 passes for 150 yards and a score in the first half, Boucher completed just one of 10 passes for 15 yards and an interception – returned 27 yards for a touchdown by linebacker Raheem Waiters – in the second half.
Holliday said it might have been the best half of football the Herd has played since he became head coach in 2010.
"I would think," Holliday said. "I know you take away a couple of plays, they'd have had less than a hundred yards of total offense. It was great to see the defense come out and play the way they did. And of course offensively, we got that thing rolling in the second half."
Marck said the RedHawks (0-1) simply didn't have an answer for anything the Herd had to offer.
"You have to credit Marshall for making adjustments at halftime," Marck said. "They came out, they played tough and they threw some stuff our way that we weren't seeing in the first half. A lot of credit to them. Obviously we need to do a better job of playing tough for two halves of football."
Steward Butler led Marshall with 107 rushing yards on 17 carries, while Essray Taliaferro gained 91 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries. Kevin Grooms ran for 53 yards on four carries, but Holliday said after the game that the 2012 Conference USA freshman of the year might be a week away from being totally recovered from an ankle sprain that kept him out of much of preseason camp. Most of his yardage came on one 39-yard carry and he was brought down from behind on that run.
Tommy Shuler led Marshall with nine catches for 67 yards and a touchdown, and was one of nine Herd players to catch a pass Saturday night. Jermaine Holmes led Marshall with eight tackles, three for a loss and a sack.
The Herd returns to Edwards Stadium at 6:30 p.m. this Saturday to face Gardner-Webb.
-- Contact sportswriter Derek Redd at email@example.com or 304-348-1712. His blog is at blogs.dailymail.com/marshall. Follow him on Twitter @derekredd.