Defense Shines as Marshall Blanks Gardner-Webb|
Sep 7, 2013
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - A combined effort from the Marshall offense and defense lifted the Marshall football team to a 55-0 win over Gardner-Webb to help the Thundering Herd remain unbeaten and record a shutout at Joan C. Edwards Stadium on Saturday night.
While the victory improved Marshall`s record to 2-0, Gardner-Webb dropped to 1-1 on the year. The contest served as the first ever meeting between the Thundering Herd and the Runnin' Bulldogs. The Herd has started the season 2-0 for the first time since the 1999 campaign when Marshall went 13-0.
The Herd posted a balanced offensive attack with 224 rushing yards and 285 passing yards, leading to 26 first downs. Marshall's red-zone efficiency was perfect as the Herd scored on all six possessions inside the 20-yard line.
After starting the game with a short field courtesy of a 45-yard kickoff return by redshirt sophomore Steward Butler (Lakeland, Fla.), it was Butler who finished the drive with a 9-yard touchdown run to put the Herd out front 7-0 with 11:11 remaining in the first quarter. It was one of three touchdowns for Butler who led the Herd rushing attack with 151 yards on just nine carries.
Showing its improved defense, the Herd forced its second turnover of the season in the form of a fumble that was forced and recovered by redshirt senior Alex Bazzie (Silver Springs, Md.). Just two plays later, Butler took a handoff 46 yards for his second rushing touchdown of the game to put Marshall ahead 14-0 with just over five minutes to play in the first quarter.
With 9:16 left in the second quarter, junior quarterback Rakeem Cato (Miami, Fla.) rolled out to his right and scampered eight yards to cross the goal line, extending the Marshall lead to 21-0. Cato completed 16-of-28 pass attempts for 230 yards and a touchdown while playing roughly two-and-a-half quarters.
Having recovered a Runnin' Bulldogs fumble midway through the second quarter, deep in Gardner-Webb territory, Marshall made the turnover costly by turning it into a 31-yard field goal from Justin Haig (Delray Beach, Fla.) with 7:10 until the half to make it 24-0.
From there on out, the game was heavily dictated by the Thundering Herd defense.
Looking to take the defensive shutout into halftime, defensive back Monterius Lovett (Tallahassee, Fla.) picked off a pass from Gardner-Webb quarterback Lucas Beatty and returned it 70 yards for a touchdown, giving Marshall a 31-0 advantage with 5:46 to play until the break.
The Herd added to its lead with 1:39 remaining in the second quarter on a 25-yard field goal from Haig to take a 34-0 lead into halftime.
Cato attacked the Runnin' Bulldogs defense through the air in the second half, as a 44-yard pass to Tommy Shuler (Miami, Fla.) went for a touchdown to make it 41-0 with 12:32 to play in the third quarter. The connection from Cato to Shuler capped a five play, 76-yard Marshall scoring drive that took 41 seconds. Shuler finished with five catches for a game-high 85 yards.
Playing out of a shotgun formation on fourth down and one, Butler took the handoff from Cato and barreled up the middle for 13 yards and a Marshall touchdown. The score put the Herd ahead 48-0 with 7:19 to play in the third quarter.
With the game seemingly in hand and quarterback Blake Frohnapfel (Stafford, Va.) having entered in relief of Cato, a one-yard touchdown pass was reeled in by Eric Frohnapfel (Stafford, Va.) with 2:11 left in the third. The extra-point made it 55-0 and marked the second consecutive game in which Marshall eclipsed the 50-point mark in 2013.
The last time the Herd scored at least 50 points in consecutive games during the same season was during the 1996 campaign, Marshall's last season in Division I-AA.
The Herd continued to swarm to the football on defense for the entirety of four quarters in pursuit of keeping the Runnin' Bulldog offense from scoring. Marshall recorded its first defensive shutout in its last 111 games, with the last time having been during the 2003 season when the Herd blanked Ohio 28-0 (Nov. 28).
It was Marshall's fourth-straight home win dating back to last season.
The Marshall defense was a force to be reckoned with throughout the night as the Herd forced a total of six Gardner-Webb turnovers, three fumbles and three interceptions. The Herd cashed in those six turnovers for 24 points. The defense allowed just 67 rushing yards to Gardner-Webb after keeping Miami (Ohio) to 74 rushing yards in the 2013 opener on Aug. 31.
Marshall will hit the road for a two-game road swing, starting with a matchup at Ohio on Saturday, Sept. 14 at 8:00 p.m. The game will be televised by ESPNews.