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Marshall football: Cato says lack of execution helped UCF pass rush

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. -- When Marshall quarterback Rakeem Cato dropped back to pass Saturday in the Herd's 54-17 loss to Central Florida, chances were at least one Knights defender was hot on his trail.

Cato's first game this season without at least 300 passing yards came in no small part from UCF's relentless pass rush. Yet Cato said that the Knights weren't doing anything out of the ordinary to stalk him. It came down to Marshall's lack of execution.

"They were running a basic blitz the (Herd) defense runs every day in practice," Cato said. "We weren't focused. We weren't mentally prepared for what they came with. I guess everybody saw that and they dropped their heads."

UCF sacked Cato four times Saturday night, led by defensive lineman Deion Green's two. Defenders had reached Cato that many times only once before this season. Rice recorded four sacks, but the Herd was able to prevail 54-51 in double overtime.

Even when the Knights couldn't sack Cato, they were able to affect what he did in the pocket. UCF racked up 10 quarterback hurries. Defensive lineman Troy Davis, UCF's season leader in sacks and tackles for loss, led the way with five hurries.

Marshall center Chris Jasperse agreed with Cato that UCF's pass rush had less to do with any sort of secret-weapon blitz and more to do with the Herd's simple inability to keep the Knights out of the backfield.

"I don't think it was so much of them scheming as much as it was just us not doing what we were supposed to do," Jasperse said. "We've got to get hats on hats and cover people up and we didn't do it. We could never get in our zone and just keep going."

"It's not good," he added. "We've got to get the job done up front, either run or pass. We've got to protect or run-block."

*  *  *

MARSHALL'S DEFENSE was able to do something it hadn't in almost an entire calendar year - intercept multiple passes.

The Herd swiped two Blake Bortles passes in the first half of Saturday's game. The first was Bortles' first pass of the game and UCF's first offensive play of the game. He decided to test Marshall's secondary and lofted a ball down the right sideline to Quincy McDuffie. But junior Derrick Thomas was there in coverage and came down with the ball.

The second came at the start of the second half and killed a 14-play, 78-yard drive that got the Knights as close as the Marshall 3-yard line. A holding penalty pushed UCF back to Marshall's 13 and on third and goal, redshirt junior linebacker Billy Mitchell stepped in front of Bortles' pass and returned it 25 yards.

"The quarterback rolled out and I saw the back come across my face," Mitchell said. "I saw him eye him down the whole time and I just stepped in front of it."

It was Marshall's first multiple-interception game since the Herd picked off three East Carolina passes on Nov. 26, 2011. Yet while the Herd recorded three turnovers Saturday, also recovering a Storm Johnson fumble in the fourth quarter, it could turn none of them into points.

*  *  *

INJURIES BIT the Herd before and during Saturday's game. Marshall began the contest without starting kick and punt returner Andre Snipes-Booker. Snipes-Booker, also a reserve slot receiver, was still recovering from a concussion. Marshall Coach Doc Holliday said the senior should be ready for Saturday's 2 p.m. game against Memphis.

Holliday was less sure about the availability of several other players. Corner Keith Baxter left the game at one point in obvious pain, holding his right shoulder. He returned later, which was lucky for the Herd, as corner Derrick Thomas left the game as well. Senior safety Dominick LeGrande also spent time hurt on the sideline, thinning the secondary even further.

Senior defensive captain Devin Arrington was done for the night in the second half. The starting weak-side linebacker had a brace wrapped around his right leg.

"It's part of the game," said Mitchell, who returned for the Southern Miss game after missing the previous six with a concussion. "Not everyone's going to be healthy. I experienced it first-hand. You can't blame it on injuries. We have to have confidence that the person behind us knows exactly what he's doing and can make the same plays."

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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