Marshall University lost the battle with West Virginia University, 69-34. Embarrassed? Put it behind you. It did not drop the Thundering Herd from the rankings; it did not count as a conference game.
It will help prepare Marshall for the Conference USA schedule. This game meant no more than a scrimmage for Marshall.
The final Friends of Coal Bowl meant everything to WVU—its No. 11 ranking, its reputation going into the Big 12, Geno Smith's Heisman hopes.
Mission accomplished, good for WVU.
Things weren't all bad for Marshall, though.
First, Herd QB Rakeem Cato showed he is much improved from last year and is ready for prime time. He threw 54 passes, completing 38, for 414 yards and two touchdowns. He made only two serious mistakes the whole game.
Cato showed complete command of the offense and guided his team to 34 points against the No. 11 team in the nation. Against most teams, his performance would have been enough for a win and then some.
Aaron Dobson, Jermaine Kelson and Travon Van each caught four passes. Marshall can throw the ball.
Will Marshall compete for Conference USA title?
Marshall has running backs with speed. Serious speed. In a game that looked like a running-back tryout, Grooms averaged over eight yards per carry. Van also showed promise.
Special teams were special: The Herd had a blocked punt and went 2-for-2 on field goals. Kickoffs usually ended up with WVU starting short of the 25. Kickoff returns were brought out, usually with position beyond the 25.
In spite of giving up 69 points, the defense showed promise. Especially impressive was a goal-line stand that stopped WVU from scoring and Marshall's mostly containing Tavon Austin on those short passes.
A few big plays for WVU by some of the nation's top players were the difference.
Teams usually show their biggest improvement from the first to the second game. This Herd team has promise.
I can't think of one conference game it has no chance of winning.
I see this Marshall team finishing somewhere between 8-4, possibly even 10-2. You can count on bowling at the end of a conference race I believe the Herd have a shot at.
Marshall, you lost the game with WVU big time. But the rest of the season will be a different story.
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