Special to The Times
December 31, 2013
ANNAPOLIS, Md. – A dominant fourth-quarter performance helped Marshall (10-4, 7-1 C-USA) complete its first 10-win season since 2002-03 with a 31-20 win over Maryland in the 2013 Military Bowl presented by Northrop Grumman at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium, Friday afternoon.
Marshall’s victory brings its all-time bowl record to 8-3, with its last win coming versus FIU in the 2011 Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Bowl. The Terrapins ended their season at 7-6, 3-5 in the ACC.
The Thundering Herd got the ball first as Maryland elected to defer to the second half, but opened the game with back-to-back three-and-outs. However, on Marshall’s second three-and-out, a 40-yard Herd punt put the Terrapins inside their own one-yard line. Maryland ended up punting the ball for 34 yards, giving Marshall favorable field position at the Terps’ 37-yard line.
A pass interference call put the Herd even deeper into Maryland territory, at the Terps’ 22 for a first down. On third down, Essray Taliaferro (Washington, D.C.) took the ball 15 yards seemingly into the endzone, but the touchdown call was overturned after review. Marshall struck two plays later when junior quarterback Rakeem Cato (Miami) flipped a one-yard pass to Tommy Shuler (Miami), putting the Herd up, 7-0, with 6:21 to play in the opening quarter.
Maryland answered on its next drive, taking the ball on a seven-play, 75-yard drive that ended with a 29-yard touchdown pass to tie the game at seven with 3:25 remaining in the first quarter.
Next, the Herd rolled for 70 yards down the field and found the endzone on an eight-yard pass from Cato to Gator Hoskins (Gainesville, Fla.), giving Marshall a 14-7 lead with 0:34 left in the quarter.
The second quarter opened with the teams exchanging field goals, as Maryland’s Brad Craddock split the uprights from 25 yards away at 11:36 and Marshall’s Justin Haig (Delray Beach, Fla.) hit a 27-yarder with 9:41 to go in the half.
With the score at 17-10 in Marshall’s favor, both teams punted the ball away once more until Maryland connected on a 33-yard field goal to reduce the gap to 17-13, going into halftime.
A quartet of punts opened the second half, with two by Maryland and two by Marshall. Marshall’s second punt put the Terps inside the one-yard line for the second time in the game, with 7:40 remaining in the third quarter.
Maryland responded by converting back-to-back fourth downs with the clock winding down, and began the final quarter with a first-and-goal scoring opportunity. C.J. Brown completed a two-yard touchdown pass to Dave Stinebaugh to give the Terps their first lead of the game, 20-17, with 14:56 left to play.
The Herd was not fazed as it stormed 63 yards down the field over 2:51 on its resulting drive and capped the possession with a seven-yard Taliferro touchdown rush. Marshall took back the lead, 24-20, with 12:05 left.
On Maryland’s next possession, Marshall’s defense answered the call and forced a punt to return the ball to the Herd at its 30-yard line.
After another effective punt by sophomore Tyler Williams (Fort Wayne, Ind.) put Maryland inside the 10-yard line and the Terps suffered another three-and-out. Marshall got the ball back at midfield with 5:53 left. Williams put four of his seven punts inside the 10-yard line, with two at the one-yard line.
Next, Cato found Hoskins in the endzone for an eight-yard touchdown pass at 3:42 in the fourth quarter, extending Marshall’s lead to 31-20.
Redshirt freshman safety AJ Leggett (Miami) sealed the deal for the Herd when he intercepted Brown at Marshall’s 24-yard line with 2:58 left. Although the Herd punted the ball back to the Terps with 1:44 to go, Marshall’s defense held strong as Maryland turned the ball over on downs. The Herd took over and as time ran out, completed its 10-win season by defeating Maryland, 31-20.
The Herd’s speed made up for its lack of possession time, with Maryland keeping the ball for 73 plays over 33:22 to Marshall’s 79 plays over 26:38. The Terps out-rushed the Herd (194-138) but Marshall held the advantage in the air, completing twice as many passes (28-to-14) for 337 yards to Maryland’s 197. The Herd’s defense also limited the Terps to 2-of-14 on third down conversions.
Cato was named the game’s Most Valuable Player with a final line of 28-of-44 for 337 yards and three touchdowns. His three touchdowns gave him 39 for the season, tying him with Chad Pennington’s school record for single-season touchdown passes (1997).