HUNTINGTON, W.Va. -- The Marshall football team's 61-13 win over Southern Mississippi was decisive.
It was dominating.
But it wasn't perfect.
Thundering Herd players said they think that might actually help the team prepare for this Saturday's home game versus the University of Alabama at Birmingham.
A shaky second quarter left Herd coaches with some teaching opportunities in what was otherwise a pounding of a Golden Eagles team that has now lost 20 consecutive games. Now the Herd (5-3, 3-1 Conference USA) will focus on its next game with the Blazers and the chance to become bowl eligible after missing the postseason in 2012.
"Not everything will be peaches and cream," Herd quarterback Rakeem Cato said. "But the only thing that can be peaches and cream is your effort, just going out there and going hard every play, realizing you've made a mistake and going back to the film and trying to correct that mistake."
Cato led the Herd to a first quarter that made everything look like peaches, cream, rainbows and gumdrops. He threw touchdowns to four different receivers in the game's first 15 minutes to stake Marshall to a 28-0 lead and have people in the press box looking up single-game offensive records.
Yet Marshall's game ground to a halt in the second quarter, and for a short time, the momentum swung the way of the winless Golden Eagles (0-8, 0-4 C-USA). The first setback came when Cato scrambled and, as has been his habit, he held the ball away from his body as he did. He ran into his own lineman, the ball popped out and Southern Miss recovered at Marshall's 35. The Golden Eagles, though, couldn't score on the ensuing drive.
They did score, however, after recovering the Herd's next fumble. Running back Essray Taliaferro broke away from the USM defense and was on his way to the longest touchdown of his career. Emmanuel Johnson chased him down from behind and popped the ball out of Taliaferro's hand and through the end zone for a touchback.
"It was so unexpected," Taliaferro said. "He popped it out and, when I went to reach for the ball, it was out of reach. Man, that hurt. That really hurt."