HOUSTON – It took a little extra time Saturday afternoon, but the Marshall football team's long, laborious Lone Star State jinx was exorcised with a 54-51 double-overtime win at Rice. The Thundering Herd (2-2, 1-0 Conference USA) won in the state of Texas for the first time in nine tries.
"I'm just proud of the kids and proud of the way they fought," Marshall Coach Doc Holliday said. "They came out and never put their heads down. They played extremely hard. I like these kids. I like this team."
And this week, the nation's No. 1 passing team beat the Owls (1-3, 0-1 Conference USA) with 334 yards and six touchdowns on the ground. Two of those touchdowns came in overtime – a four-yard Remi Watson score and Kevin Grooms' five-yard game-winning touchdown, his third rushing and fourth of the day.
A week after gaining just 59 yards on the ground in a home loss to Ohio, the Herd went over the 300-yard rushing mark for the first time since it gained 317 yards on 46 carries against the University of Alabama-Birmingham on Oct. 21, 2006. Two redshirt freshmen, Grooms and Steward Butler went over the 100-yard mark, gaining 103 and 166 yards, respectively. Watson, another redshirt freshman, added 84 yards. It was the first time Marshall had two 100-yard rushers in one game since Martin Ward gained 136 yards and Terrell Edwards-Maye gained 113 against Southern Methodist on Nov. 21, 2009.
The trio became Marshall's go-to runners after leading rusher Travon Van was moved to cornerback to shore up that position. The redshirt sophomore saw his first action at corner in the second quarter.
The defense could use the extra numbers, after corner Derrick Thomas was hurt in the game – Holliday said he should be fine – and Rice quarterback Taylor McHargue was slashing Marshall for 467 total yards. The junior threw for 314 and three touchdowns and ran for 153 yards and a score.
McHargue brought the Owls back from a 10-point fourth-quarter deficit nearly by himself. He broke several tackles on a 43-yard touchdown run that cut Marshall's lead to 41-38 and ran for 64 yards on three carries on Rice's final drive of regulation. But he hurt himself on his last run, a 47-yarder to the Marshall 2 and did not play the rest of the game. Running back Turner Petersen was flagged for a false start on second and goal from Marshall's 1 two plays later, forcing Rice to kick a field goal to tie the game with time running out rather than go for the winning touchdown.
Marshall quarterback Rakeem Cato shook off four sacks to complete 28 of 39 passes for 259 yards and two touchdowns.
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THE 105 COMBINED points in Saturday's game were the most in Marshall regular-season history, beating the 101 combined points in the Herd's 101-0 win over Kentucky Wesleyan in 1916. It was Marshall's first overtime game since beating East Carolina last season on Nov. 26. It was Rice's first overtime game since beating Tulsa in double overtime on Nov. 11, 2005.
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EVEN WITH SATURDAY'S high score, punter Tyler Williams had a productive day. The freshman averaged 50.8 yards per punt and put three of his five punts inside Rice's 20. His 66-yard punt in the fourth quarter tied Brian Dowler (1991) for the eighth-longest punt in Marshall history.
-- Contact sportswriter Derek Redd at derek.r...@dailymail.com or 304-348-1712. His blog is at blogs.dailymail.com/marshall.