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Marshall football: UCF dominates Herd, 54-17

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. – So much for momentum.

The Marshall football team saw any bit of progress it gained from last week's dominating win over Southern Mississippi dwindle further with every University of Central Florida touchdown Saturday night. The Knights slammed the door on its Conference USA rivalry with the Thundering Herd, winning 54-17 at Joan C. Edwards Stadium. In their eight C-USA clashes, Marshall never beat UCF.

"It's obvious we didn't play well all night in any of the three phases (offense, defense, special teams)," Marshall Coach Doc Holliday said. "It's unfortunate. It's disappointing. Central Florida, give them credit. They're a good football team and they're well coaches. They came in here and beat us."

The Herd (3-5, 2-2 C-USA) scored first with Justin Haig's 43-yard field goal with 7:47 left in the first quarter. The Knights (6-2, 4-0 C-USA) responded with 27 straight points – a 97-yard Quincy McDuffie kickoff return for a score, and a 16-yard Blake Bortles touchdown pass to Jeff Godfrey sandwiched between Latavius Murray touchdown runs of two and 75 yards. The only blemish in that streak was a blocked extra point following the Godfrey touchdown reception.

The Herd finally scored a touchdown with 26 seconds left in the first half, when Antavious Wilson pulled in a deflected 15-yard Rakeem Cato pass to cut UCF's lead to 27-10 at halftime.

But the Knights put the game away on the opening kickoff of the second half. McDuffie scored again, this time from 98 yards out, the first time in UCF history it scored on two kickoff returns in one game.

UCF scored another four touchdowns in the second half to Marshall's one, Gator Hoskins' one-yard catch from Cato. Murray scored two more for the Knights, a 20-yard pass from Bortles and a 42-yard run. Brynn Harvey scored UCF's final touchdown, a 21-yard run.

Cato finished the night with 298 yards on 35-of-62 passing with two scores, but was sacked four times. It was the first time this season he was held to under 300 yards passing. The Herd mustered just 66 yards on 36 carries. Only its 59-yard ground performance against Ohio was worse. UCF's 568 yards of offense marked the third time the Herd allowed more than 500 yards in a game. It's allowed more than 50 points four times. 

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THOUGH CATO couldn't reach the 300-yard mark, he reached several other milestones. His two touchdown tonight gives him 38 for his career, tying him with Stan Hill for eighth all time. His 416 attempts this year are seventh on the all-time single-season list. Ahead of him are Tony Petersen's 622 in 1987, three Byron Leftwich years (491, 470 and 457) and two Chad Pennington years (432 and 428).

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INJURIES PILED UP for the Herd on Saturday. Receiver/returner Andre Snipes-Booker was held out of the UCF game with a concussion. Kevin Grooms returned kicks in his stead, while Tommy Shuler returned punts. Holliday said he should be available for the Memphis game. 

Corner Keith Baxter left the game holding his right shoulder, but returned. That was lucky for the Herd, because Derrick Thomas also left the game with an injury. Linebacker Devin Arrington was done for the night in the second half. He wore a brace on his right knee. Safety Dominick LeGrande also left the game hurt. Holliday didn't know the extent of their injuries Saturday night.

-- Contact sportswriter Derek Redd at derek.redd@dailymail.com or 304-348-1712. His blog is at blogs.dailymail.com/marshall.


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