HUNTINGTON, W.Va.– The Herd’s defense picked off UTSA three times and limited the Roadrunners to 157 yards passing on its way to a 34-10 win Saturday afternoon at Joan. C. Edwards Stadium.
UTSA was held under a 100 yards rushing and created headaches for Larry Coker’s squad throughout the ballgame. Offensively, Rakeem Cato three a pair of touchdowns and collected 279 yards on 22-of-32 through the air while Essray Taliaferro, Kevin Grooms and Steward Butler combined for 125 yards rushing.
Marshall’s defense set the tone early on for The Herd putting pressure on UTSA quarterback Eric Soza and forcing a pair of interceptions and nearly coming up with a third on the first two UTSA possessions.
On the first drive of the game, Soza’s second pass attempt of the contest was batted at the line of scrimmage and landed into the arms of linebacker Evan McKelvey. Marshall started the drive at the UTSA 42-yard line but the offense fizzled as it entered the redzone and The Herd had to settle for a 33-yard Justin Haig field goal.
Marshall’s defense picked up right where it left off on the second drive. Derrick Thomas let a potential pick-6 slip through his fingertips. However, Marshall’s defensive line would again get into Soza’s face. Alex Bazzie swatted the very next pass attempt into the air and Ra’Shawde Myers made a diving interception.
“That’s what you have to do on defense. Your player makers have to make plays and that’s what gets you off the field,” said defensive coordinator Chuck Heater.
This time Marshall would convert the turnover into a touchdown. Rakeem Cato capped off a 6-play 38-yard drive with a 17-yard touchdown pass to Devon Johnson giving The Herd a 10-0 lead with 1:43 to go in the first quarter.
The scoring toss marked the 23rd straight game Cato has thrown a touchdown pass. It’s the second longest streak in the country. Fresno State’s Derek Carr has 24 straight games with a touchdown pass.
The Herd’s defense continued to fluster the Roadrunner offense forcing a pair of three-and-outs. Marshall’s offense responded with a pair of scoring drives.
Essray Taliaferro put Marshall up 17-0 at 2:10 mark in the first quarter on a 4-yard touchdown run.
Marshall then marched 83 yards on 11 plays highlighted by a 24-yard pass to Devon Smith and a 19-yarder to Craig Wilkins. Steward Butler put an exclamation point on the drive when he walked into the endzone untouched from a yard out giving Marshall a 24-0 advantage with 5:05 left in the half.
UTSA’ only points of the first half came via a pair of Marshall mistakes.
Rakeem Cato was blindsided in the pocket by UTSA defensive end Robert Singletary causing a fumble that was recovered by the Roadrunners. Soza threw three incomplete passes but got the benefit of a holding penalty called on Marshall’s Corey Tindal. That eventually set up a 24-yard Sean Ianno field goal.
Marshall would head to the lockerroom leading comfortably 24-3.
Neither team could seem to get the offense rolling in the third quarter. Marshall punted once and turned it over on downs twice. Meanwhile, UTSA was forced to punt and was intercept twice more.
The Roadrunners were threatening to get back into the game, driving down the field and into Marshall’s redzone. Facing 3rd and 17 on the Marshall 25-yard line, Soza lofted a pass to the corner of the endzone that was picked off by A.J. Leggett, snuffing out UTSA’s chance to cut into the Marshall lead.
The Roadrunners lone touchdown came with 9:44 to play. UTSA took advantage of a pass interference call on Marshall and a 27-yard screen pass to set up a one-yard touchdown dive by Eric Soza.
Marshall cemented the victory with a clock-chewing drive in the fourth quarter. The Herd’s 11-play, 5:58 drive ended with a four-yard touchdown pass to Demetrius Evans, salting away a 34-10 victory.
The Herd improves to 3-2 on the season and 1-0 in Conference USA. Marshall is on the road next Saturday at Florida Atlantic University.