Slow and steady may win the race, but it doesn't win the 2013 Military Bowl.
On the strength of their uptempo offense, the Marshall Thundering Herd prevailed over the Maryland Terrapins 31-20 on Dec. 27 in Annapolis.
Coming into the game, the Thundering Herd had averaged 43 points per game (seventh in the country), while their 502.3 yards per game was 12th. Meanwhile, they possessed the ball, on average, only 26.9 minutes per game (113th).
Although Maryland was able to slow down Marshall to a certain extent, the quality of Rakeem Cato and the rest of the Thundering Herd offense shone through as the game went on.
Cato finished 28-of-44 for 337 yards and three touchdowns. Marshall's offense outgained Maryland 475-391 despite only having the ball for 26:38.
In short, it was the exact kind of performance you'd expect from the Thundering Herd.
Rather than fighting fire with fire, Randy Edsall opted for the methodical approach. The Terps possessed the ball for long stretches, which is the best defense you can have against a team like Marshall. For most of the game, it worked very well.
Early on, you could see why Maryland wanted to keep the Thundering Herd offense off the field.
Marshall opened the scoring with a one-yard touchdown pass from Cato to Tommy Shuler. It was Cato's 89th of his career, which tied him with Bryon Leftwich on Marshall's all-time list, per ESPN College Football.
In addition, Cato has now gone 32 straight games with a TD pass, the second-longest current streak in the nation.
Marshall's Rakeem Cato has thrown for a TD in 32 straight games, the 2nd-longest active streak in FBS (Derek Carr, 33).— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) December 27, 2013
Maryland answered with a touchdown of its own, as C.J. Brown connected with Levern Jacobs for 29 yards. It was a solid drive from the Terrapins and established that they could go toe-to-toe with the Thundering Herd in the early stages. Maintaining a workable point gap would be key for Maryland.
On the very next drive, Marshall took the lead back after Cato found Gator Hoskins for an eight-yard touchdown pass.
The two teams exchanged field goals to end the first half, with Marshall clinging to a 17-13 lead. The margin probably should've been larger, but the Thundering Herd left points on the board with their last drive of the second quarter.
Of course, the case could also be made that Maryland should've scored more. The Terps had plenty of yards, but the Marshall defense made sure to up their performance on third down, per Derek Redd of the Charleston Daily Mail.
Terps outgaining #Herd 240-220 this half, but UM is just 1-6 on 3rd down so far.— Derek Redd (@derekredd) December 27, 2013
Brown attempted only eight passes in the first half, with Maryland running the ball 26 times, so it was clear what Edsall was trying to do, per Daniel Martin of CSN Washington.
Maryland has attempted 26 rushes in the first half. C.J. Brown has attempted eight passes. So that's the game plan. #Terps averaging 4.3YPC.— Daniel Martin (@DMartinCSN) December 27, 2013
The second half was a largely uneventful affair until the fourth quarter. Both teams failed to get on the board in the third quarter, and the defenses, Maryland's in particular, played extremely well.
The Terps defense did its best to keep the team in the game, and then finally in the fourth quarter, the offense was there to do its part.
After another great punt by Tyler Williams, Maryland was backed up to its own 1-yard line. A 12-yard run from Brandon Ross on second down would get the Terrapins out of their own end zone. That allowed the offense some breathing room, which it capitalized upon.
Maryland took 7:44 to go 99 yards, with the drive capped off by a two-yard touchdown pass from Brown to Dave Stinebaugh.
And just like that, the Terrapins had their first lead of the game, 20-17, with 14:56 to play.
Unfortunately for Maryland, Marshall responded swiftly to grab the lead right back.
The Thundering Herd were helped out by DeAndre Reaves' 31-yard return on the ensuing kickoff, which put the ball on Marshall's 37-yard line. Giving a short field to this offense is a recipe for disaster.
In a drive that nearly lasted three minutes, Marshall took a 24-20 lead following a seven-yard run by Essray Taliaferro.
Another TD pass for Cato iced the game for the Thundering Herd. He found Hoskins in the end zone for the second time in the game, as Marshall took an 11-point lead, 31-20, with 3:42 to play.
The nature of Maryland's offense doesn't lend itself to quick scoring drives to eliminate a double-digit gap, so Marshall being up that big that late in the game meant the result was all but decided. Brown throwing an interception on the second play of the Terps' subsequent drive only expedited the inevitable.
It was a deserved win for Marshall. The Thundering Herd were the better team on the day.
Key Player Grades
Rakeem Cato, Marshall: A
Rakeem Cato was nearly perfect in this game. Even when the Marshall offense was having a hard time moving the football, things never got too bad because Cato remained composed. He never let the game get away from the Thundering Herd.
After a performance like this, you can understand why the 2014 Heisman hype train is already gaining steam.
Tyler Williams, Marshall: A
It's difficult for a punter to affect a game in a big way, but Williams did his best. Time and again, he would pin the Maryland offense deep in its own territory. The coverage team deserves plenty of credit as well, but Williams was able to consistently get enough air under his punts to allow his teammates to down the ball before it reached the end zone.
You can't discount what having to play out of their own end zone on multiple occasions did to the Maryland offense. The Terrapins couldn't string any plays together and quite often were forced to quickly punt the ball away.
Brandon Ross: B+
You can't blame Ross for Maryland's defeat. The sophomore running back finished with 116 yards on 20 carries. Ross was the metronome the Terps needed in order to put together those time-consuming drives. However, when Maryland needed to chase the game late, Ross wasn't able to make much of an impact.
This is a big win for Marshall. Assuming Cato returns for his senior season, the Thundering Herd are poised for a big year in 2014. For Maryland, this is the exact opposite way you want to head into the Big Ten next season.