HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - Marshall kicker Justin Haig connected on a 45-yard
field goal with seven seconds remaining in regulation to give the
Thundering Herd a 44-41 victory over Houston Saturday afternoon at Joan
C. Edwards Stadium.
Marshall improved to 5-6 (4-3 Conference USA) while Houston fell to 4-7 (3-4 C-USA).
Marshall set a school record for plays from scrimmage (106), surpassing the previous mark of 101 which was set at West Virginia earlier this season. The Herd also tied the school record for first downs, moving the chains 37 times.
An efficient Herd offense was 13-of-22 (59.1%) on third down while its
defense held Houston to 5-of-17 (29.4%). Marshall tallied 377 yards in
the air and 288 yards on the ground to claim a season high 665 yards of
total offense. It was the highest total yards of offense by a Herd team
since Oct. 12, 2002 against Buffalo, dating back 128 games.
Quarterback Rakeem Cato went 32-of-50 for 377 yards and three touchdowns in the passing game, connecting with nine wide receivers in the victory.
Tommy Shuler paced the wide receiving corps with nine catches for 105 yards and a touchdown. The sophomore moved into a third place tie on Marshall's list of single-season reception leaders (96).
Antavious Wilson caught seven passes for 72 yards and had a 19-yard touchdown reception on Marshall's opening drive. The scoring strike from Cato came on a 3rd-and-17 and was one of three third-and-longs converted by the Herd during its opening sequence.
Marshall built a 10-0 lead by the end of the first quarter while stifling Houston to 26 yards of total offense and one first down.
The Herd's lead extended to 17-0 midway through the second quarter when Cato found Shuler for a five-yard touchdown on another third down.
The Cougars answered on their next series with a 11-play, 70-yard drive where they converted a 4th-and-two at the goal line as quarterback Crawford Jones found wide receiver Shane Ros in the back corner of the end zone to cut the deficit to 17-7.
Marshall added a pair of touchdowns late in the first half to help Marshall's lead rise to 31-10. The first touchdown came on a 46-yard bomb to Davonte Allen and saw Cato set the single-season record for completions (360). The second touchdown came via a 69-yard run by Kevin Grooms, Marshall's longest rush from scrimmage this season.
Grooms amassed 117 yards on the ground in the first half and finished the game with 159. It was the third game this season that the freshman rushed for more than 100 yards.
Houston nearly returned Haig's kickoff between the late scores, but a saving tackle by Trent Martin helped Marshall hold the Cougars to a field goal.
Early in the second half, Cato became the 18th Herd player to score this season when he scampered in from five yards out on a play-action keeper. The mark of 18 is matched only by Colorado State in 2012.
Marshall saw its lead swell to 38-17 before allowing three unanswered touchdowns tie the game at 38.
Haig gave the Herd the lead back with 5:44 left by booting through a 26-yard field goal, but Houston would again answer right back as Matt Hogan converted a 28-yarder four minutes later.
On the final drive, Cato completed his first three passes and tied in a 16-yard run to set up the game-winning field goal.
Marshall will be on the road for the final week of the regular season with bowl-eligibility on the line when it travels to East Carolina on Nov. 24 at 2 p.m