OXFORD, Ohio — Marshall’s defense was bent over backward at times in its 42-27 win Saturday over Miami (Ohio), but stiffened at certain critical times.
Those included fourth downs. The Thundering Herd was tested five times on those downs, and repelled the RedHawks four times. Three of those holds took place in the first half.
One came on the final play of the first half. Miami sat at Marshall’s 10-yard line and needed a touchdown to dent the Herd’s 28-3 lead.
A 9-yard pass from Andrew Hendrix to Dawan Scott put the ball on the 1, but Armonze Daniel stopped Spencer Treadwell for a 1-yard loss. On third down, tight end Alex Welch helped the Herd with a false start, pushing the RedHawks back to the 7.
Still, Hendrix nearly scored on a keeper, stopped only when A.J. Leggett and Jermaine Holmes desperately closed in to a good distance. On fourth-and-goal, Miami opted to run the clock down to 4 seconds before taking timeout. MU followed with its own timeout.
On the big play, Darryl Roberts foiled David Frazier’s attempt to haul in a Hendrix pass. Considering the Herd’s wretched third quarter, that play was big.
“Biggest play of the game, to be honest,” said MU coach Doc Holliday. “Great play by ‘Swagg.’ ”
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With one catch 7 minutes, 40 seconds into Saturday’s game, Eric Frohnapfel signaled that yes, he can fill the void left by Gator Hoskins of the Miami Dolphins — and then some.
Frohnapfel ran a simple slant pattern, but had to lay his 6-foot-6 frame completely horizontal to pull down a zipped Rakeem Cato pass. In the first minute of the second period, he caught a 1-yarder despite being held by Miami’s Lo Wood.
Frohnapfel, a senior, led the Herd with five catches for 54 yards. That’s a chunk of his previous career totals of 29 receptions for 292 yards. He now has seven career TDs.
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With that notable throw to Frohnapfel, Cato extended his streak with at least one touchdown pass to 33 games.
Cato probably is one game away from rising to second place in MU history on pass attempts. With 32 Saturday, he has 1,419, close to Byron Leftwich’s 1,442. Chad Pennington’s school record of 1,669 is quite reachable.
Cato had a difficult time in the second half Saturday. At halftime, he was 14 of 18 for 180 yards and all three of his touchdowns; after that he was 6 of 14 for 81 yards.
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There were a few notable injuries and cramps on this humid August afternoon/early evening.
Two Herd players traveled but missed the game: cornerback Keith Baxter and running back Steward Butler. Holliday said Baxter was hampered by a hamstring injury, while Butler needed an injection to his belly for an undisclosed condition.
Perhaps the most critical injury during the game was that of left tackle Sebastian Johansson in the second quarter. That threw true freshman A.J. Addison, tall at 6-foot-6 but not yet filled out at 282 pounds, in for the rest of the game.
Cornerback Roberts missed a series or two, but returned. Safety Leggett went down the fourth quarter, and it might not be a coincidence that Hendrix fired a 40-yard bomb to Rokeem Williams on the next play, closing MU’s lead to 35-27.
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Addison was one of three true freshmen to make their debuts for Marshall. The others were Antavis Rowe, who played nickel back with Baxter out and usual nickel Corey Tindal filling in at the corner.
Several other redshirt freshmen had their college debuts. Angelo Jean-Louis began with a splash, with his 39-yard catch setting up Frohnapfel’s first TD.
Kaare Vedvick took kickoffs in place of the injured Amareto Curraj. Other debuts, largely on special teams: Deon-Tay McManus, Sandley Jean-Felix, D’Andre “Chocolate” Wilson (special teams) and Rodney Allen.
BRIEFLY: Joe Woodrum seems to be No. 2 in the tight-end order, as he was played in two-tight-end situations. McManus played on special teams, but was not used in scrimmage plays. ... Sophomore Cody Carter, the walk-on from Barboursville via the University of Charleston, appeared on the kickoff unit. ... Marshall’s new uniforms were roundly panned by statistical crews and just about anybody else watching from the press box complex. One Miami statistician called the numbers “brutal.” With Miami attempting a “whiteout,” the Herd debuted its green uniforms. ... Punter Tyler Williams will qualify for the NCAA statistical leaders with five punts (3.6 punts per game are needed). He averaged 46.6 yards, bolstered by a 64-yarder to the Miami 7.
Reach Doug Smock at 304-348-5130 or dougsmock@wvgazette or follow him @dougsmock.