BOCA RATON, Fla. — It took a 10-point rally in the final 10 minutes, capped by Justin Haig’s 41-yard field goal, for Marshall to pull out a 24-23 win at Florida Atlantic.
“I don’t care if it’s pretty or not,” said coach Doc Holliday. “If you get the win, that’s all that matters. I’m just proud of how this football team fought and it will help us down the road.”
Rakeem Cato was held to just 216 yards passing for Thundering Herd (4-2, 2-0), but he came up clutch in the fourth quarter by finding Gator Hoskins over the middle on fourth-and-5 for a 41-yard touchdown. Haig made the extra point and the Herd trailed 23-21 with just over six minutes to play.
FAU (2-5, 1-4) then ran 10 plays and kept the already-tired Marshall defense on the field for 4:28. But FAU was forced to punt with 2:06 remaining and pinned Marshall at its own 9-yard line. After Cato scrambled past the 25-yard line, he found Hoskins on a circus catch along the sideline for another 9 yards. Three plays later, Cato hooked up with Devon Smith for 35 yards down the left sideline.
That got Marshall to the FAU 26. Essray Taliaferro picked up another 2 yards before Kevin Grooms centered the ball in the middle of the field and Cato spiked the ball with six seconds left. FAU used its final two timeouts in an attempt to rattle Haig, but it didn’t work and Marshall came away with the victory.
Early in the game, neither team had any offensive success. Cato threw an interception to FAU’s D’Joun Smith on the first play from scrimmage at the Herd’s 27. FAU couldn’t capitalize as Mitch Anderson missed a 40-yard field goal wide.
No one scored until the beginning of the second quarter when Kelly was sent out to punt once again for the Owls. Smith fielded for the Herd at his own 23 yard line and ran officially 77 yards to the house for the first score of the game, giving Marshall a 7-0 lead with 13:51 to play in the second quarter. FAU didn’t score its first points until there were just 11 seconds remaining in the first half, as Anderson redeemed himself with a field goal from 26 yards.
FAU scored two touchdowns in the third quarter to the Herd’s one, but the difference was a missed PAT by Anderson on the Owls’ second touchdown of the period with 22 seconds remaining.
In the fourth quarter, Owls quarterback Jaquez Johnson gave his team a nine-point cushion with a 1-yard touchdown run with 10:01 to play in the game.
The Herd’s win, coupled with a triple-overtime win by Tulane against East Carolina, gives Marshall sole possession of first place in the Conference USA East Division. Marshall is off for 12 days before heading to Murfreesboro, Tenn., to take on Middle Tennessee State on Oct. 24.
— Braxton Crisp