Herd romps again
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - Marshall's opposition the past two weeks may not be the greatest in college football, but the Thundering Herd has done its job in making those teams look bad.
In the case of the 56-14 win Saturday over Alabama-Birmingham, really, really bad.
A week after emasculating Southern Mississippi 61-13, the Herd set several milestones Saturday against the Blazers, such as:
Taliaferro became the first Herd player to rush for 100 yards in three consecutive games, approaching Darius Marshall's four straight in 2009.
Grooms and Butler dialed long-distance a few times - Grooms had a 71-yard touchdown run that gave Marshall a 21-7 lead in the first quarter, Butler ran 61 to set up a touchdown and scored on a 49-yarder.
It took only 34 plays to hit the 500-yard mark, and the Herd didn't punt until under the 5-minute mark.
With 634 total yards against Southern Miss, the Herd topped 630 two games in a row for the fourth time in school history and second time in two years (most recently 665 vs. Houston and 633 vs. East Carolina in 2012).
That gave him an ultra-stellar 235.42 NCAA passer rating, even higher than his 212.53 in the Southern Miss game.
As a bonus, Cato wasn't sacked for the second straight game. UAB was credited with one quarterback hurry and didn't lay a finger on him, even on his 6-yard TD run.
"Yes, that's exactly what it is, flag football," Cato said.
"I can assure you we didn't have any Gatorade baths, and we weren't dancing in the locker room because we won six games," said MU coach Doc Holliday. "That's what we expect to do around here. Our standards and expectations around here aren't to get bowl-eligible and to win six games, it's to go play for championships."
For the second week in a row, MU won the coin toss and deferred, and the defense delivered a first-possession turnover. Neville Hewitt roared in for a sack of quarterback Jonathan Perry, knocked the ball loose and Brandon Sparrow recovered.
The Herd offense started at the UAB 12-yard line, and Taliaferro ran 7 yards on the second play for a 7-0 lead.
UAB (2-7, 1-4) tied it for the first and only time, using a 58-yard bomb from Perry to Jamarcus Nelson to set up Darrin Reaves' 2-yard run. Marshall answered with Cato's 39-yard pass to Eric Frohnapfel, Grooms' 71-yard run and Cato's 6-yard toss to Tommy Shuler, making it 28-7.
Reaves scored his second touchdown on a 32-yard pass from Perry, and then the Blazers blocked Justin Haig's 38-yard field goal attempt. Sticking with its strong running game of Reaves and Jordan Howard, the Blazers threatened to make it a one-score game.
On the seventh play of what would have been a 71-yard drive, Howard rushed for 15 yards to the MU 10, only to have the ball jabbed away by safety Taj Letman. MU's Gary Thompson recovered with 1:36 left in the half.
That was enough time for the Herd to push the lead to 35-14 at the half, especially when Cato hit Gator Hoskins for a 50-yard gain to the UAB 9. Cato threw to Grooms for the rest in his only scramble of the day, ducking two defenders to get to the outside and throw on the run.
The Herd took the kickoff to start the second half and drove 79 yards to make it 42-14, with Taliaferro scoring his second TD from 16 yards out. The Herd's final drives covered 94 and 86 yards, ended by Cato's 6-yard run and Butler's 49-yarder.
"I thought our team went out there and executed the way we need to," Holliday said. "For our second straight week I thought we got off to a fast start and the defense forced a turnover for a score, which was critical. For the most part we played pretty clean.
"We have a short week and a quick turnaround. We have to put this behind us and start to go to work on Tulsa."
That game is Thursday night at 7:30, airing on Fox Sports 1.
Reach Doug Smock at 304-348-5130, firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him at twitter.com/dougsmock.