The Thundering Herd (7-3) all season have thrived on their explosive quick strike offense which has given opposing defenses within Conference USA little time to prepare. Marshall was tested last Thursday as it allowed Tulsa to overcome a 31-14 halftime deficit and take the lead in the fourth quarter. The Herd came up with big plays down the stretch to earn a 45-34 victory over the Golden Hurricane at H.A. Chapman Stadium. Most of the success can be attributed to junior QB Rakeem Cato who leads an offense that ranks 11th in the country with 506 yards and nearly 43 points per game. Meanwhile FIU (1-9) gets its last opportunity to surprise a lot of people if they can notch their first home win.
Cato (214/355 2801 28 TD 7 INT) had an excellent showing last week versus Tulsa as he connected on 33-of-58 passes for 456 yards with two of his five touchdowns going to top target Tommy Shuler (74-798 8 TD). Cato also extended his school record streak of consecutive games with a touchdown pass to 28. The Herd have shown tremendous balance this season as they are also racking up 210.2 yards per game on the ground. Senior tailback Essray Taliaferro (152-796 5.2 9 TD) is the featured back while the sophomore tandem of Steward Butler (62-585 9.4 6 TD) and Kevin Grooms (81-448 5.5 6 TD) have shown that the Thundering Herd have numerous weapons in their arsenal. Devon Smith (29-547 3 TD), Gator Hoskins (28-455 9 TD) and Craig Wilkins (24-302 2 TD) are other options Cato can rely on if Shuler is double or triple covered.
While the defense on paper continues to look vulnerable at times they have outscored their opposition by 20 points per game. The Thundering Herd are facing a Golden Panthers squad that is averaging only 10 points per contest along with gaining only 223 yards. Both rank 122nd out of 123rd in the FBS progams throughout the country. Tulsa was held to only 345 total yards and 19 first downs. Marshall has registered 21 takeaways led by Jermaine Holmes who has been the anchor with 68 total tackles and an INT. In addition, FIU's defense has been extremely weak allowing 416.7 total yards and 37.5 points per game.
The problems start at QB where FIU has used split time between EJ Hilliard (58/97 575 2 TD 3 INT) and Jake Medlock (68/138 866 4 TD 6 INT). While neither has endured much success, Jonnu Smith (31-298 2 TD) leads the receiving core but to date hasn't padded his stats nor success due to numerous dropped passes. Lamarq Caldwell (118-431 3.7 1 TD) ran for just 95 yards on 20 carries (4.8) in a 33-10 loss to UTEP in week 12. Silas Spearman (113-292 2.6 4 TD) is used mostly for shorter yard situations when the Golden Panthers do threaten inside the red zone which by relative standards isn't very often.
As inept as FIU has been all season long on both sides of the ball, it's hard to imagine they have any shot to stay close. I went against FIU taking Louisville earlier in the season as a 42 point favorite as the Cards crushed the Golden Panthers 72-0. While the Thundering Herd have rolled over opponents at Joan C. Edwards Stadium by an average of 46 points per game, they are however just 2-3 on the road. We might not be taking a chance if FIU was so anemic on both sides of the ball. One of my rare losses was taking Marshall over Ohio which resulted in an outright loss during week 3. I don't see the same result this afternoon, as Marshall will not look ahead to next week mauling the Golden Panthers. Best of luck however you play!
YTD 11-3 .786