Marshall football: Herd thumps Southern Miss, 59-24
HATTIESBURG, Miss. – Marshall coach Doc Holliday has few fond memories of the last time he played at M.M. Roberts Stadium. Most of those memories include his first Thundering Herd team getting the stuffing kicked out of it by Southern Mississippi on an early October night. Well, he said something a little stronger this week than "stuffing."
His Herd stayed fully stuffed Saturday night. Southern Miss, however, left the game a little lighter after a 59-24 Marshall win.
Led by another 300-yard passing game from quarterback Rakeem Cato and the Marshall defense's best outing of the season, the Herd (3-4, 2-1 Conference USA) snapped a two-game losing streak.
"It's a great team win," Holliday said after the game. "It was the first time this year we had a total team effort. I thought special teams was tremendous, the defense played their tails off and the offense, with the exception of one time, moved the ball well."
Marshall's 2012 trip to Hattiesburg was a 180-degree flip from its 2010 trip. Two seasons ago, the Herd fell behind by four touchdowns at halftime and tumbled to a 41-16 loss. On Saturday, Marshall never trailed and, after the Golden Eagles (0-7, 0-3 Conference USA) cut the Herd's lead to 24-17 with Desmond Johnson's 22-yard second-quarter touchdown run, Marshall ripped off 35 straight points.
Cato had one blemish on the night. A second-quarter pass bounced off Andre Snipes-Booker's hands and into the hands of Southern Miss corner Kalan Reed, who returned it 19 yards for a touchdown. Otherwise, the sophomore quarterback rolled as usual. He completed 31 of 42 passes for 340 yards and three touchdowns, including two to receiver Tommy Shuler.
The Herd rolled up a season-high 629 yards of total offense, the second time it's eclipsed the 600-yard mark this season, with a big assist from its running game. Marshall backs rushed for 275 yards – only their 334-yard output versus Rice was better this year – with big runs from redshirt freshmen Kevin Grooms and Steward Butler. Grooms had 119 yards and two touchdowns, including a 64-yard scoring sprint. Butler had 71 yards on seven carries, including a 54-yard touchdown.
Marshall's defense, maligned for the first half of the season for its inability to stop opponents, bottled up the Eagles for much of the game, allowing just one second-half score – a mop-up time touchdown on a 12-yard fourth-quarter run by third-string USM quarterback Arsenio Favor. The Herd recorded three sacks and forced three turnovers, its first multi-sack and multi-turnover game of the season. Defensive tackle Brandon Sparrow had two of those sacks.
Southern Miss' three quarterbacks – starter Anthony Alford, and backups Ricky Lloyd and Favor – combined for just 115 yards on 17-of-33 passing.
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LINEBACKER BILLY Mitchell and defensive tackle Ken Smith didn't just play their first game of the season Saturday. Both were in the starting lineup. Smith recorded three tackles, while Mitchell recorded four with a forced fumble and a pass breakup.
While Smith was added to the defensive line rotation, redshirt freshman Jarquez Samuel did not make the trip to Mississippi. Holliday said after the game that Samuel was injured sometime this week, but did not disclose the nature of the injury. He said Samuel should be fine for next Saturday's game versus the University of Central Florida.
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SENIOR RECEIVER Antavious Wilson went over the 2,000-yard mark for his career Saturday, becoming the 12th player in school history to reach that milestone. Also, his 14-yard touchdown catch in the second quarter gave him 13 for his career and ties him for 13th on the Herd's all-time list.
Marshall now has 39 touchdowns through seven games this season. The Herd had 31 in 13 games in 2011 and 29 in 12 games in 2010.
-- Contact sportswriter Derek Redd at email@example.com or 304-348-1712. His blog is at blogs.dailymail.com/marshall.