HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - The Marshall football team's outside receivers knew many eyes would be upon them this season.
Outsiders would look at the size of some of them and the speed of others and expect effective performances. Yet through most of the season, those eyes looked at the stat sheet and wondered where those performances were.
Thundering Herd fans got what they were looking for from that group against Southern Mississippi. Outside receivers accounted for three of the Herd's six touchdown passes in the 61-13 win and they'll be called upon to keep that up as Marshall hosts the University of Alabama at Birmingham at noon Saturday (with the game broadcast on Comcast Sports South).
"It was something that we needed as a receiving corps," senior receiver Devon Smith said. "People had been ... I don't want to say they were pointing a finger, but they were waiting for the outside (receivers) to do something."
The outside receivers' breakthrough came with Smith, the Herd's most reliable receiver outside tight end Gator Hoskins and slot receiver Tommy Shuler, mostly out of the picture.
Smith provided the outside wideouts' first big play of the game, catching a 58-yard bomb from Cato on the Herd's second scoring drive, but he tweaked a hamstring at the end of the run and left the game for a short time.
Smith returned and the hamstring was fine - evident in his 55-yard punt return later in the game - but caught just two more passes Saturday. But that let other receivers step up in his place.
Craig Wilkins' only catch of the game was a 15-yard touchdown from Cato, while Davonte Allen had his breakout game of the season. Allen caught three passes for 83 yards and two touchdowns, a 23-yard first-quarter strike from Cato and a 40-yarder in the fourth quarter from backup quarterback Blake Frohnapfel.
Those touchdown catches were Allen's first of the season, and came a lot later in the year than many anticipated. Observers thought the 6-foot-2, 203-pound redshirt sophomore would have played a bigger part in the passing game before now, but Smith said everyone's happy Allen finally broke through.
"It's all just a brotherhood," Allen said. "Just go out there and go play. Like I told Davonte, I had a big catch, but it was his time to shine. It was his time to shine and Craig's time to shine. All of us are supporting each other."