OXFORD, OHIO—Marshall hung on for a 42-27 season opening victory Saturday against Miami (OH) but it was far from the domination so many were predicting.
“Anytime you go on the road and get a win, number one, you’re happy to get the win,” said Coach Doc Holliday following the victory. “I thought our team played extremely well in the first half then had a lull in the third quarter.”
Marshall built a 21-0 lead less than a minute into the second quarter and took a 28-3 lead into the half. The offense was moving at will through the air and on the ground. Two of the first three scoring drives were three plays each, covering 54 yards and 73 yards respectively. Cato found Eric Frohnapfel for a touchdown from 11 yards out for the first score of the game extending his streak to 33 consecutive games with a touchdown pass.
Cato then connected with his favorite target Tommy Shuler with 2:53 to go in the first quarter. Cato again found Frohnapfel for a one-yard scoring toss and Marshall was rolling with a 21-0 lead.
The Herd extended its advantage to 28-3 going into the half thanks to a two-yard Devon Johnson touchdown run and a goal line stand to keep Miami out of the endzone in the final seconds of the first half.
“The defense really stepped up there to hold them with no points,” said Holliday.
As it turned out that defensive stopped proved to be huge in the second half.
Coming out in the third quarter, instead of putting the game away, Marshall was sluggish on both sides of the ball, turning it over on the first possession of the second half. Deandre Reaves coughed up the ball at the Marshall 42 yard-line after a pass completion, setting up the Redhawks first touchdown of the game, a two-yard touchdown pass from Andrew Hendrix to Alex Welch. For the rest of the third quarter the momentum was on Miami’s side.
The Herd was limited to just three first downs in the third quarter while the Redhawks outscored Marshall 17-0 to make it a 28-20 game.
Marshall’s offense finally started to shows signs of life in the fourth quarter after the first five drives of the have ended in a fumble, two punts and two turnovers on downs.
The Herd turned to its bruiser in the backfield, Devon Johnson, who broke into the open field for a 27-yard touchdown run to put Marshall in front 35-20.
But Miami answered back with a 40-yard touchdown strike from Hendrix to Rokeem Williams to close the game to eight.
Marshall turned to Johnson again on the next possession to wear down the Redhawk defense. Marshall ran nearly four-and-a-half minutes off the clock late in the fourth quarter, feeding the ball to Johnson. At the two-yard line, the defense was keying on Johnson, so Cato faked the hand-off the and scrambled for the touchdown to put Marshall up 42-27 and put the game out of reach.
“I thought in the fourth quarter our offense came back and did what we had to do to win the game,” said Holliday. “That’s a lot better football team than we faced in Huntington a year ago.”
Devon Johnson led the way for The Herd on the ground rushing for 152 yards on 19 carries and a pair of touchdowns.
Rakeem Cato finished the day 20-for-32 for 261 yards and three touchdowns. Eric Frohnapfel hauled in five catches for 54 yards and two touchdowns and Tommy Shuler added four catches including a touchdown grab.