A quick start propelled Marshall to an easy 59-28 victory over East Carolina on Friday afternoon. The victory clinched the Conference USA East Division title for the Thundering Herd.
Marshall came out executing well offensively -- Rakeem Cato was slicing up the East Carolina defense with his arm, and Essray Taliaferro had a lot of success running the ball. The Herd piled up nearly 300 total yards in the first half, opening up a 24-0 lead before a late rally by the Pirates cut the margin to 24-10 at the break.
East Carolina was fortunate to be so close at that point. A Marshall punt return touchdown that would have made it 31-0 was called back, and while the Herd initially appeared undeterred by that setback, they coughed up the football in the red zone several plays later, again depriving themselves of more points and a larger lead. ECU scored its first touchdown on the ensuing drive, then picked off Cato to set up a field goal before the half.
Marshall ended ECU's scoring run with a confidence-restoring touchdown drive to open the third quarter. Later on, Herd defensive end Gary Thompson picked off a Shane Carden screen pass and returned it for a score, making it 38-13. That was the back-breaker for the Pirates, whose day would only get worse from there.
So one team is through to the C-USA title game, but the West Division won't be settled until Saturday. Rice, Tulane and Texas-San Antonio still have a shot at winning the West. Tulane plays at Rice, while UTSA hosts Louisiana Tech. Our own Bill Connelly outlines the scenarios
If Rice wins, the Owls win the Conference USA West title. If Tulane wins, then the Green Wave have to wait and see if UTSA can beat Louisiana Tech at 3:30 p.m. ET. If UTSA and Tulane win, UTSA's the division champion. If Tech and Tulane win, it's Tulane.
Box Score Hero:
Marshall finished the contest with more than 250 yards on the ground, led by Taliaferro, who ended his day with 161 yards on 26 carries. Cato had a solid afternoon as well, going 17-of-28 for 272 yards with two passing TDs and one interception. He also ran for a pair of scores.
Neither team came into the game ranked, though East Carolina had received votes in both major polls. The victory for the Herd isn't likely to push them into the top 25.
But Did They Cover?
Next Week's Schedule:
Marshall: Conference USA Championship Game against an opponent still to be determined.
ECU: No game.