Marshall football: Hoskins writes name in Herd record book
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - Marshall University tight end Gator Hoskins blew past the Florida International defense Saturday in the Thundering Herd's 48-10 win. In the process he also blew past a few very notable names in the Herd career record books.
Hoskins caught three touchdowns against the Panthers, cementing himself as the most prolific scoring tight end in Marshall history. It was the first score of the night, though, that might have been most important.
Down 3-0 early in the second quarter, quarterback Rakeem Cato found Hoskins for a 25-yard score with 13:25 left in the half. That opened the floodgates for the Marshall offense, as the Herd racked up two more touchdowns and entered halftime with a 20-3 lead.
"I was a captain this week and, in the first quarter, we were a little down and the coaches told us to make a play," Hoskins said. "I made a play and it seems like it got us started and we got rolling."
Hoskins, a senior from Gainesville, Fla., finished the game with 137 yards on six catches. It was the highest receiving yard total for a Herd tight end since Cody Slate gained 177 yards in a loss to New Hampshire in 2007. While Hoskins couldn't catch Slate in that category, he eclipsed him in another. His three touchdowns gave him 25 for his career. Not only did that pass Slate's 24 for the most by a Herd tight end, it also passed Aaron Dobson and Troy Brown to put Hoskins fourth all-time in touchdown catches.
Marshall Coach Doc Holliday mentioned the synergy Hoskins has with Cato, and Cato agreed, saying that trio of scores came from constant communication.
"It was just him coming to me and I was coming to him," Cato said. "He'd tell me what's there and what's not there and he just made big catches, big plays all night."
Hoskins' prettiest catch wasn't a touchdown. It was a one-handed 40-yard strike over the middle of the field where Hoskins was dragged down from behind at the FIU 15. He scored on the next play, but wasn't safe from some good-natured ribbing from his teammates.
"That just shows how competitive we are," Hoskins said. "Practicing every day, guys just want you to be better and know what you're able to do."
THE HERD'S struggles defending the run came to an end Saturday. After allowing an average of 212.4 rushing yards per game in its last five, Marshall gave up just 97 rushing yards to FIU.
It was part of a totally dominant performance for the Herd defense. On top of shutting down the Panthers' run game. Marshall gave up just 167 yards on 15-of-29 passing. Cornerback Darryl Roberts picked off an E.J. Hilliard pass, and eight different defenders had a hand in seven sacks, half of the 14 tackles for loss the Herd recorded in the game.
After giving up a field goal to open the game, linebacker Jermaine Holmes said the defense knew it had to buckle down so the offense could get rolling
"We just knew we had the offense's back," said Holmes, who led Marshall with seven tackles and a sack. "We just knew we needed to get a stop and get them the ball as much as possible. They're going to put up points."
Holmes said a repeat performance will be crucial when the Herd faces East Carolina on Friday at noon on CBS Sports Network for the Conference USA East Division crown. The Herd would like to continue its streak of stinginess on third down. FIU could convert just 4 of 17 third downs, and Tulsa could convert only 3 of 17 the week before.
"Anytime you can get off the field on third down, that's what you have to do," Holliday said. "We've done a better job of getting that done this year, and it's going to be critical on Friday."
HOSKINS WASN'T the only record-setting receiver on Saturday. Junior Tommy Shuler broke new ground in Herd history, becoming the first Marshall receiver to record two 80-catch seasons in his career. His six catches for 74 yards and a touchdown against FIU put him right at the 80-reception mark for this season. He set the Herd single-season record for catches last year with 110.
Shuler now has 204 catches in his Herd career, good for sixth all-time in the Marshall record books. What was extra special, the Miami native Shuler said, was that he was able to reach those marks in front of his mom.
"My mom hasn't come to Huntington," he said. "She came to this game, so I'm really proud of that. I wanted to do it for my family and now I want a championship."
Contact sportswriter Derek Redd at email@example.com or 304-348-1712. His blog is at blogs.dailymail.com/marshall. Follow him on Twitter @derekredd.