HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — Devon Johnson rushed for 199 yards and a touchdown while Rakeem Cato threw four touchdowns and Marshall dominated Rice 41-14.
Rice had won six in a row coming into Saturday but Marshall’s defense smothered the Owls all day long. Rice was limited to a miniscule 105 yards of total offense and seven points before Marshall took the starters out midway through the fourth quarter.
Rice finished with just 180 yards, the fewest allowed by a Doc Holliday team against a major college opponent and the fewest yards allowed since Marshall gave up 123 yards to Ohio in the 2009 Little Caesar’s Pizza Bowl.
“We came out with a game plan to maintain the outsides and stop number 15 (Taylor Jordan) because we knew he liked to get the ball,” said defensive back Darryl Roberts.
The Owls were forced to punt on their first five drives before scoring with 2:04 left in the first half. The touchdown was setup by a Ryan Polland interception of Rakeem Cato, giving the Owls the ball at the Marshall 17-yard line. Two plays later Jawon Davis scored on a 3-yard run.
That was the only bit of success Rice would have against Marshall’s starting defense. In the second half Marshall forced three more punts and held the Owls deep in Marshall territory on a fourth down attempt.
Rice’s seven first half points matched a season low (previously at Texas A&M and Hawaii) and the 14 total points were the lowest total in C-USA action this season.
“They came to play this year,” said Rice’s Jordan Taylor who finished with nine catches for 88 yards and a touchdown. “Obviously, we wanted to try to come in and run the ball a little bit on them and they did a good job of stopping that. It forced us to try to throw the ball a little more in some situations that we didn’t really want to.”
When Rice did drop back to pass Jackson, 11-of-23 for 99 yards, was molested all day in the pocket. Marshall registered three sacks and six quarterback hurries.
“It was a combined effort along the defensive line,” said Arnold Blackmon who registered a sack. “We wanted to be physical. We felt they had out physicaled us last year and got ahead on us early. We just tried out best to attack early and get some early points on the board.”
Meanwhile, Marshall’s offense dominated.
Devon Johnson came up a yard shy of his second 200-yard rushing game. Johnson, who sat out last week’s win over Southern Miss nursing a knee injury, rumbled for 199 yards on 27 carries.
“I felt great the way the trainers took control of me in the training room, then just being able to rest it and stay off it as much as possible. In practice this week I felt fine and it was just great to get back out there.
Rakeem Cato completed 23-of-37 pass attempts for 299 yards and four touchdowns to four different receivers. Ryan Yuracheck, Hyleck Foster, Eric Frohnapfel, and Deon-Tay McManus each had touchdown receptions on the day.
After falling behind early in the last two games, Marshall poured it on Rice. The Herd led 20-7 at the half before Cato had touchdown passes to Fronhapfel for 30 yards and a 7-yard scoring pass to Deon-Tay McManus with a 2-yard touchdown by Devon Johnson squeezed in between.
Rice had only allowed two second half touchdowns in the last five games.
Marshall finished the game with 581 yards of total offense and remains the only team in FBS to score at 35 points in a game.
Cato’s touchdown pass to Ryan Yuracheck extended his streak of consecutive games with a touchdown pass to 42.
The win also locked up he Conference USA East Division title and guarantees Marshall a spot in the C-USA title game on Dec. 6th.
Marshall is on the road next week at UAB before returning to Joan C. Edwards Stadium on the day after Thanksgiving for the final regular-season game against Western Kentucky.