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HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - Marshall's effectiveness on offense was seemingly too much for Western Carolina as the Thundering Herd flew past the Catamounts 52-24 in its home opener on Saturday in front of 25,317 fans at Joan C. Edwards Stadium.
The Herd continued its high-powered offensive trends, as it totaled 615 yards of total offense after putting up 545 yards last Saturday at West Virginia. The count marks the most yards in a game since 604 yards against Kent State on Oct. 11, 2003.
"I thought our kids came out with a lot of enthusiasm and played extremely hard," said head coach Doc Holliday. "The one stat that I'm most proud of is that we didn't turn the ball over. I tell the guys all the time that if we take care of the football and play hard that everything else will take care of itself."
The offense was anchored by Rakeem Cato after the sophomore quarterback finished 32-of-42 with 377 passing yards and three touchdowns. This was the second game Cato has passed for over 300 yards after recording 413 against West Virginia.
Twelve different receivers put their hands on the ball during the game and the passing attack accounted for 430 total yards. Cato's favorite target, Aaron Dobson, brought down nine catches and contributed 81 yards and one touchdown reception.
Fellow receiver, Antavious Wilson, led the team with 98 receiving yards, while sophomore Tommy Shuler had 79 receiving yards and a 57-yard haul in the first half.
Marshall's ground game was spear-headed by Steward Butler who had eight touches and gained 60 yards, a 7.5 yard average and earned his first career touchdown.
The Marshall defensive core was led by linebacker Evan McKelvey with 10 tackles and 1.5 tackles for loss. Senior linebacker Devin Arrington had a pick-six in the third quarter and ended the game with a team-high five solo tackles.
"Defensively I thought we tackled better," said Holliday. "We should have gotten ourselves off of the field a couple times. We had some penalties that need to be corrected."
WCU quarterback Eddie Sullivan, a Marshall transfer, finished the game 19-of-40 with 191 yards and one touchdown. Sullivan also led the run game with 50 rushing yards and two touchdowns. His most popular target, Jacoby Mitchell, had nine receptions and 84 yards.
Coach Holliday's defense was the story in the first half, as the Herd only allowed Western Carolina six first downs and 120 total yards, compared to Marshall's 355. The Herd defense held WCU without a first down until the 14:07 mark in the second quarter.
Marshall got on the board on its first possession following a 57-yard pass from Cato to Shuler. The completion set up a 24-yard field goal from Justin Haig to put the Herd up 3-0.
Cato engineered three more touchdowns through the air to give Marshall a 24-0 lead.
Tight end Gator Hoskins capped an 11-play, 82 yard drive with a touchdown reception and wide receiver Aaron Dobson followed with a 2-yard pass reception from Cato to extend the Marshall lead.
Wide out Demetrius Evans put up the final points of the second half for Marshall after completing a nine play, 68 yard drive with a 12-yard touchdown catch from Cato. The reception marked Evans' first career points.
After 29 minutes of keeping the Catamounts scoreless, Western Carolina's Richard Sigmon pushed a 40-yard field goal through the uprights to make the score 24-3 at the half.
WCU cut the Marshall lead again with a score on its second possession of the third quarter. Mitchell caught a 5-yard pass from Sullivan to make the score 24-10. However, Marshall responded with two quick scores from its running corps as Steward Butler and Remi Watson contributed touchdowns in the third quarter to push the lead to 35-10.
Arrington added his 18-yard interception return late in the third quarter to give Marshall a 45-10 margin. The pick-six was the first score of Arrington's career.
The fourth quarter was started with a 16 play, 88 yard drive from Western Carolina that was topped off by Sullivan with a 1-yard touchdown run to cut the Marshall lead. Sullivan would also run in one final Catamount touchdown to end the game.
Backup quarterback Blake Frohnapfel gave the Herd faithful its first Frohnapfel-to-Frohnapfel connection as brother Eric caught a 29-yard pass to give Marshall its final score of the game.
Marshall ended the game without a turnover and was able to put together 37 first downs off of 94 total plays.
The Herd will host Ohio next Saturday at 6:30 p.m.