HUNTINGTON, W.Va.—Marshall hoped it could get by and not have to submit running back Devon Johnson to an unnecessary beating on Saturday. Johnson was still nursing a knee injury he suffered in the win over FAU, in which he set a new single game rushing record with 272 yards.
Had Marshall been playing for a conference championship this past Saturday, Johnson would have played. But he didn’t need to. Not with the depth Marshall has in the backfield. The Herd rushed for 335 yards without Johnson in the line up, displaying depth in the backfield that most C-USA teams only dream of.
Steward Butler led Marshall with 118 yards on five carries and two touchdowns. Butler now has four touchdown runs of 30+ yards, including an 83-yard scoring run this past Saturday against Southern Miss.
Quarterback Rakeem Cato rushed for 104 yards, the second time this year he has eclipsed the century mark. Remi Watson had 17 carries and found the endzone three times.
Running backs coach Chris Barclay has a No. 3 running back that would be the feature back at any other C-USA school and as would the second string back. Marshall has fresh legs in the backfield in the third and fourth quarter while opposing defenses are wearing out.
And, there’s Cato.
It’s easy to see why Marshall’s offense has been so difficult to stop this year.
Southern Miss pumped up
In hindsight it is no wonder the Golden Eagles were psyched up at the start of Saturday’s game. It was homecoming and Southern Miss had an “us against the world” mentality. It also knew that it was going to onside kick if it got into the endzone on the opening series. And for the first ten minutes of the game it worked. But once Cato and company got the ball it was all but over.
Marshall is going to continue to get the best shot from opponents over the last three weeks. It would make UAB or Western Kentucky’s year to be the team that knocked off the Herd.
The last team Marshall lost to was Rice in the C-USA Championship game. It was certainly a contest to forget for the Herd. Conditions in Houston were less than ideal, nobody was in the stands and Marshall did not play up to its potential. Now, the Herd gets the Owls at Joan C. Edwards Stadium and will be looking for a bit of revenge.
Rice could actually help Marshall. The Owls come into Saturday’s game winners of six in a row and adds a quality opponent to Marshall’s schedule it has been sorely lacking for much of this season.
Obligatory rankings prediction
Marshall’s 63-17 win over Southern Miss certainly helped its case, but did the committee pay attention? Did it see that Marshall scored 63 points in three quarters? Will it take notice that Marshall beat Southern Miss more soundly in Hattiesburg that both Alabama (52-12) and Mississippi State (49-0), which played at home? Or does any of that matter?
Don’t be shocked if Marshall is left out of the top 25 this week, although thanks to a few losses by teams ranked 20-25 certainly helps.
A solid win over Rice this weekend will leave the committee scrambling for excuses to exclude Marshall next week.