GREENVILLE, N.C. – With bowl eligibility on the line, the Marshall
football team rallied back from a 28-7 deficit to force overtime, but
was defeated 65-59 in double-overtime at East Carolina on Friday.
Trailing by 21 points late in the first half, the Thundering Herd (5-7, 4-4 Conference USA) outscored the Pirates (8-4, 7-1 C-USA) 45-17 to take a 52-45 lead with 1:55 remaining in regulation. ECU used nearly that entire time remaining to score from 6-yards out and tie the game at 52.
After both teams scored in their opening overtime possession, a fumble by Essray Taliaferro left the Pirates needing just a field goal to win the game. They got a touchdown instead, much to the delight of the 46,317 fans at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium.
Taliaferro made the most of his first career start with a career-best 130 yards and the 6-yard go-ahead touchdown. The junior running back also had three receptions for 50 yards.
Sophomore quarterback Rakeem Cato had 318 yards and completed 31-of-40 attempts for five touchdowns through two and a half quarters of play. He was well on pace to break the Marshall record for touchdown passes in a single game (6), but suffered a left leg injury with the Herd trailing 42-38 with just over six minutes remaining in the third quarter.
Freshman Blake Frohnapfel entered the game and completed 12-of-15 attempts for 101 yards and one touchdown. He was also credited with eight rushes for 62 yards including a 51-yard touchdown run.
Sophomore wide receiver Tommy Shuler broke the school record for most receptions in a season. His 14 receptions on Friday gave him 110 for the season, breaking the old record of 106 by Mike Barber in 1987. Shuler also had two touchdowns, both from Cato.
The Herd offense put up 633 total yards of offense, the third time this season it has gone over the 600 mark. ECU finished with 555 yards, but did not turn the ball over, something that Marshall did three times (two interceptions, one fumble).
Marshall scored on its first possession of the game, a 32-yard pass from Cato to Aaron Dobson to take an early 7-0 lead. However, the Pirates scored the next 28 points and led 28-7 with 12:10 remaining in the half. East Carolina's last two touchdowns came with the benefit of great field position as a Cato interception allowed the Pirates to start at the Marshall 41 and a blocked punt put the ball at the Marshall 18.
The Herd scored 21 points in the second quarter. It started with a 24-yard touchdown pass from Cato to Shuler. After an ECU touchdown, Cato again gave Marshall a touchdown with an 8-yard pass to Antavious Wilson who finished the game with seven catches for 43 yards and three touchdowns.
Marshall's defense held ECU on a fourth-and-1 on the 50-yard line to allow the Herd offense to take over at the ECU 48-yard line. It took seven plays for the Herd to score on a 19-yard reception by Shuler. Marshall trailed 35-28 at halftime.
Just like it did to start the game, the Herd started the second half with a touchdown on the first drive of the half. It was a 2-yard pass from Cato to Wilson which tied the game 35-35.
Frohnapfel entered the game for the injured Cato and on his first drive as the main quarterback for the Herd, led a 10-play drive that resulted in a 24-yard field goal by Justin Haig to bring Marshall closer, trailing 42-38 with 14:51 remaining.
On Marshall's next offensive possession, Frohnapfel rushed up the middle for a 51-yard touchdown run take a 45-42 lead with 11:12 to play. The run was the longest by a Herd quarterback since a 75-yard run by Bernard Morris vs. East Carolina on Nov. 10, 2007.
In the first overtime, ECU connected for a 25-yard touchdown on its first play from scrimmage. It took Marshall nine plays, but the result was the same as Frohnapfel found Wilson for a 4-yard score.
After Taliaferro fumbled on Marshall's possession of the second overtime, ECU quarterback Shane Carden rushed for his third touchdown of the game, it was from one-yard out.
Carden threw for a career-high 439 yards and three touchdowns, totaling six touchdowns for the game. His top target was Justin Hardy who had 16 receptions for 171 yards.
Cato became the fourth Herd quarterback to throw for over 4,000 yards in a season, now with 4,201. Next season, he will have a chance to add to his 6,260 career yards which ranks eighth all-time at Marshall.