HUNTINGTON — From a night 21 years ago when the Herd dressed at Gullickson Hall, then walked through the tailgate crowd to the then Marshall University Stadium for a first game at the Herd’s first on-campus facility since the 1920s, little seemed the same as the Herd took to the now FieldTurf for the home opener in 2012 and the 150th game at the corner of “Herd” Avenue and “Marshall Memorial Boulevard.”
But instead of a one-point win over the Wildcats of New Hampshire in front of 33,116 frantic Herd fans, Marshall had a bit of a walk over a different bunch of cats, the Catamounts from Western Carolina, in a 52-24 win in front of 25,317 fans at Joan C. Edwards Stadium.
(And for those of you counting, this contest was the 385th game worked by yours truly at Marshall, in some capactiy as either a student-manager, film and video coordinator, assistant equipment manager, graduate assistant on the football staff, Athletic Equipment Specialist, radio host and/or Herd Insider scribe - a long way since that opener at Akron on Sept. 6, 1975 with coach Frank Ellwood over the past 38 years).
Marshall (1-1) bounced back from a tough opener at West Virginia last week, a 69-34 Mountaineer win, with a lopsided victory of its own over a quarterback for WCU (1-1) who was last year the Herd’s own.
The three-man quarterback class of Doc Holliday from 2011 was on view tonight in 2012, starting with MU sophomore Rakeem Cato’s 32-of-42 for 377 passing yards and three touchdowns night.
“We go out on Sundays, get started getting ready for the next week and have fun on Saturday’s,” said Cato, who has passed for 790 yards and five touchdowns in two games.
“We just carry on, day by day, and we try to execute every play that Coach gives to us.
“It’s an open system (we run at Marshall, with) a lot with us and we’re just doing a great job on it.”
It was the first time a Herd quarterback passed for over 300 yards in back-to-back games since 2004 when Stan Hill threw for 439 yards at Akron (11/5) and then had 348 yards at Bowling Green (11/12), although the Herd lost both of those contests.
Cato threw to ten receivers, was not intercepted and has been sacked only twice in two games despite 96 passing attempts.
Also playing well for Marshall in relief was redshirt freshman Blake Frohnapfel, who sat out with an injury last seasons, hitting 4-of-4, including his first touchdown pass, appropriately enough to his twin, sophomore Eric Frohnapfel, and who piled up 53 yards of passing and nine yards rushing.
“I have to say a little something (to him on the touchdown),” said Eric of his brother’s throw.
“Blake, come on, I had to wait for that ball a bit. It got to me and went for a touchdown so I’m glad it all worked out.
“We haven’t hooked up for a touchdown since senior year in high school. It has been a long time and it feels good to get that going again.
“Blake always says I have no ability to run after the catch. He’s says I just catch it and get tackled, so it was nice to not only prove to him, but get in the end zone and put one up for the home team.”
Eric stepped out of a tackle to finish the run to the end zone for his third touchdown at Marshall, second score of 2012.
And finally getting on the JCE Stadium turf was sophomore Eddie Sullivan who competed last year with both of the MU quarterbacks, leaving when Frohnapfel’s injury meant he might burn a season if Cato also went down, who played well against his former rival’s team with the Western Carolina squad he didn’t play for last week due to a suspension.
Sullivan was efficient, rushing 10 times for 50 yards and two touchdowns while throwing for 19-of-40 (with several drops) for 191 yards and another touchdown, all the while ducking away from nine quarterback hurries by the Marshall defense and one sack.
"It felt familiar this afternoon, coming down I-64 and driving through Huntington towards the stadium,” said Sullivan.
“At the end of the game, I think I got bombarded by just about every one of my old teammates from the Marshall sideline, and it was a good feeling. It felt welcoming — obviously we were on different teams, but it felt welcoming.
“It really helped solidify that fact that football is a game where you make a lot of friends. I made a lot of friends while here at Marshall, and I've already made a lot of friends at Western Carolina.
“So, I can't complain about anything; I'm just happy for these experiences."
The Herd continued its high-powered offensive trends, as it totaled 615 yards of total offense after putting up 545 yards last Saturday at West Virginia.
The count tops the most yards in a game since 604 yards against Kent State on Oct. 11, 2003, and the Herd had back-to-back 500-plus yard games for the first time since winning at Western Michigan on Oct. 25, 2003 (41-21) and beating Akron on Nov. 1 (42-24) the following week.
“I thought our kids came out with a lot of enthusiasm and played extremely hard,” said head coach Doc Holliday.
“The one stat that I’m most proud of is that we didn’t turn the ball over. I tell the guys all the time that if we take care of the football and play hard that everything else will take care of itself.”
Twelve different receivers put their hands on the ball during the game and the passing attack accounted for 430 total yards. Cato’s favorite target, Aaron Dobson, brought down nine catches and contributed 81 yards and one touchdown reception.
“It comes with the tempo of our offense,” said Dobson. “Cato throwing the ball to different receivers and it makes the defense have to focus on more than just one person.
“Our depth on this team is as good as it’s been since I’ve been here. We can go two-three deep in the receivers and not fall off a bit.
“That will definitely be hard for defenses to compete with that.”
Fellow senior wide receiver Antavious Wilson led the team with 98 receiving yards, while sophomore slot receiver Tommy Shuler had 79 receiving yards, including a game-best 57-yard haul in the first half.
"He had about four deals in the first quarter that he had a couple mistakes, but he came back and played pretty clean,” said Holliday of Cato’s night.
“He’s making good decisions and taking care of the football. Like I said the number one stat is to not turn the ball over and that didn't happen today. That was good."
Holliday was also encouraged the Herd spread the ball around so well for the second game, and especially with the return to form by Wilson, who moved up the receiving charts with Dobson on the evening.
"He's a good player,” said Holliday of Wilson. “It was good to see Tay and Jazz [King] in there and getting catches. "
Marshall’s ground game only averaged 3.9 yards per carry, but had losses of minus-27 against it on Cato’s single sack and a snap over the head of the Herd quarterback by center Chris Jasperse early in the game (-22).
Take away those two plays, and the run game averaged 4.8 yards per carry, led by frosh Steward Butler with eight carries for 60 yards, a 7.5 yard average, scoring his first career touchdown from eight yards out.
Also scoring their first touchdowns were junior receiver Demetrius Evans (12-yard pass from Cato), freshman back Remi Watson (3-yard run) and senior linebacker Devin Arrington, who picked Sullivan in the third quarter and returned the ball 17 yards for a score (and 45-10 lead).
Defensively, safety-turned-linebacker Evan McKelvey led the Herd with 10 tackles (two solo) and 1.5 tackles for loss, while Arrington had a team-high five solo tackles.
“Defensively I thought we tackled better,” said Holliday. “We should have gotten ourselves off of the field a couple times. “We had some penalties that need to be corrected.”
Marshall had nine penalties for minus-80 yards, while WCU had nine for minus-75 in a game that was a little chippy for teams that had not met since 1996, Marshall’s last season in I-AA football and the Southern Conference.
The Herd now leads the all-time series, 10-9-2. Western was 8-0-2 in the first ten games, starting in 1977, but has won only once (an upset of No. 2 Marshall in Cullowhee in 1992) in the last 11 meetings.
Western receiver Jacoby Mitchell had nine receptions and 84 yards, while the Herd limited Western’s running backs to only 94 yards on 25 carries, and kept the total offense of the ‘Cats to only 335 yards on 75 plays (4.5 per play) while the MU offense was averaging 6.5 yards per play on 94 snaps.
In two games, Marshall has had 195 snaps.
In bouncing back from allowing WVU over 600 yards of total offense, the Herd defense only allowed Western Carolina six first downs and 120 total yards, holding the Catamounts without a first down until the 14:07 mark in the second quarter.
Marshall got on the board on its first possession following a 57-yard pass from Cato to Shuler. The completion set up a 24-yard field goal from Justin Haig to put the Herd up 3-0 at the 11:46 mark, although Haig had his first miss of the year just eight minutes later, from 37 yards, pushed far to the right of the uprights.
Cato engineered three more touchdowns through the air in the second quarter, first when junior tight end Gator Hoskins capped an 11-play, 82 yard drive with a one-yard touchdown reception at 14:07 of the second quarter.
Dobson would catch a 2-yard touchdown from Cato to extend the Marshall lead to 17-0 at the 5:52 mark, then Evans scored on a 12 yard catch and run to complete a nine play, 68 yard drive.
Western Carolina’s Richard Sigmon pushed a 40-yard field goal through the uprights to make the score 24-3 with no time left on the first half clock, following a nice two-minute drill by Sullivan to move the ‘Cats 53 yards in nine plays.
The Catamounts kept that momentum alive over the halftime, cutting into the Marshall lead again with a score on its second possession of the third quarter.
Mitchell caught a 5-yard pass from Sullivan to make the score 24-10, as Sullivan drove WCU 53 yards in seven plays.
The Herd came back with two quick scores from it’s running corps as Butler and Watson scored touchdowns in the third quarter to push the lead to 38-10, the Arrington added his 18-yard interception return late in the third quarter to give Marshall a 45-10 margin.
“I saw an opening to the ball and then saw him throw it. It just landed in my hands,” said Arrington of picking off his former teammate.
The senior captain thought this was the kind of bounce-back game needed by the Herd defense after the WVU game last week.
“We try to give the guys confidence. Last week it was a lot of young guys in new positions going against a bunch of old guys in the same spots.
“Everybody’s just getting their feet in the ground and keeping the ball rolling.”
Both teams began to run some fresh players into the game by the fourth quarter, which saw Sullivan with his best drive of the night — 16 plays, 88 yards, topped by Sullivan’s 1-yard touchdown run.
“Froh to Froh” was the Marshall answer with Blake finding Eric for their first combined score at MU, and Blake’s first collegiate touchdown pass.
If was fun to see [Blake] Frohnapfel get his first touchdown and to his brother [Eric Frohnapfel],” said Holliday.
“There were a lot of positives out there.”
Blake was thrilled with the touchdown, especially going to his twin.
“The play call was basically a smash concept. The play worked out to where I could get it to him,” said Blake.
“Obviously I was excited. It was ugly in the air, but it was exciting to throw the ball to him and get the touchdown.
“It was one of those things where it just worked out perfectly. When the ball was in the air it was almost like we were kids again. It was awesome.
“Not many people can say they threw their first touchdown in college to their brother.”
Sullivan would respond by using a quarterback draw, his most effective running play, for an eight yard touchdown with 3:12 left to end the scoring, and Marshall would end the game with seven consecutive running plays by back-up junior Essray Taliaferro (for 29 yards) and a one yard tote by Butler to end the game.
Marshall topped its 31 first downs at WVU with 37 firsts against the Catamounts, and Arrington’s interception return for a touchdown was the first by Marshall since current Baltimore Ravens safety Omar Brown returned one 48-yards for a score against UAB on Oct. 29, 2011.
LeGrande, one of two transfers for MU from Boston College at safety, now has 20 tackles in his first two games at MU.
Dobson and Wilson continue to climb the reception charts all-time at Marshall with their games leading the Herd in catches and yards against WCU.
With a touchdown, Dobson moved to 22 in his career, tying No. 8 all-time Jim Swierczek, who played for the Herd from 1951-53.
His next touchdown will tie him for fifth with 23 with tight end Cody Slate (2006-09) and receivers Josh Davis (2001-04) and Tim Martin (1993-96).
Wilson needs one touchdown to move into double figures and 22nd, breaking a tie at 26th with Danny Abercrombie (1982-85) and Ray “Razor” Crisp (1975-78), who each had nine scores in their careers.
With 127 catches, Wilson is now 13th and Dobson is 14th with 121, passing Swierczek and Jim Cure (1962-64), who each had 113 catches in their remarkable careers for the era they played in.
With 98 yards to lead Marshall in receiving yards, Wilson is now No. 16 with 1,666 yards while Dobson is now No. 12 with 1,880 yards in his career.
Rank Rec. Player Seasons
1. 306 Josh Davis 2001-04
2. 272 Darius Watts 2000-03
3. 249 Mike Barber 1985-88
4. 221 Tim Martin 1993-96
5. 212 Nate Poole 1997-2000
6. 199 Cody Slate (TE) 2006-09
7. 176 “Little” Ricky Carter 1992-95
8. 168 John “Fuzzy” Filliez 1973-76
168 Randy Moss 1996-97
10. 147 Sean Doctor (TE) 1987-88
11. 143 Denero Marriott 1999-2002
12. 142 LaVorn Colclough 1995-98
13. 139 Troy Brown 1991-92
14. 127 Antavious Wilson 2009-12*
15. 121 Aaron Dobson 2009-12*
16. 113 Jim Cure (E) 1962-64
113 Jim Swierczek (E) 1951-53
18. 110 Andre Motley 1988-90
19. 109 Mike Bartrum (TE) 1988-92
20. 106 Lanier Washington 1997-2000
106 Ron Darby (RB) 1986-89
106 Brian Swisher 1982-85
23. 104 Lanier Washington 1998-2000
24. 103 Orlando Hatchett (RB) 1989-1992
25. 102 David Foye 1997-2000
26. 101 Will Brown 1990-93
101 Tim Lewis (TE) 1982-85
Rank Yards Player Seasons
1. 4,262 Mike Barber 1985-88
2. 4,031 Darius Watts 2000-03
3. 3,889 Josh Davis 2001-04
4. 3,467 Randy Moss 1996-97
5. 2,886 Tim Martin 1993-96
6. 2,840 Nate Poole 1997-99
7. 2,746 Troy Brown 1991-92
8. 2,619 Cody Slate (TE) 2006-09
9. 2,157 “Little” Ricky Carter 1992-95
10. 2,100 Sean Doctor (TE) 1987-88
11. 1,954 John “Fuzzy” Filliez 1973-76
12. 1,880 Aaron Dobson 2009-12*
13. 1,805 Denero Marriott 2000-02
14. 1,710 Bruce Hammond 1985-88
15. 1.681 LaVorne Colclough 1995-98
16. 1,666 Antavious Wilson 2009-12*
17. 1,664 Andre Motley 1988-90
18. 1,617 Brian Swisher 1982-85
19. 1,610 Jim Swierczek (E) 1951-53
20. 1,596 Jim Cure (E) 1962-64
21. 1,557Brian Dowler 1990-91
22. 1,464 Ricardo Clark 1988-91
23. 1,444 Will Brown 1990-93
24. 1,419 Tim Lewis (TE) 1982-85
25. 1,403 James Williams 1998-99
Rank Rec. Player Seasons
1. 53 Randy Moss 1996-97
2. 47 Darius Watts 2000-03
3. 26 Mike Barber 1985-88
4. 24 Troy Brown 1991-92
5. 23 Cody Slate (TE) 2006-09
23 Josh Davis 2001-04
23 Tim Martin 1993-95
8. 22 Jim Swierczek (E) 1951-53
22 Aaron Dobson 2009-12*
10. 18 Nate Poole 1997-2000
18 LaVorne Colclough 1995-97
12. 16 Sean Doctor (TE) 1987-88
13. 15 Brian Dowler 1990-91
15 Keith Baxter, Sr. 1984-87
15 James Williams 1998-99
16. 14 John “Fuzzy” Filliez 1973-76
17. 13 “Little” Ricky Carter 1992-95
18. 12 Andre’ Motley 1988-90
19. 11 Eric Ihnat (TE) 1987-90
11 Bruce Hammond 1985-88
11 Brian Swisher 1982-85
22. 10 Jerrald Long 1996-98
10 Shawn Goodwyn 1992-94
10 Mike Bartrum (TE) 1988-92
10 Ricardo Clark 1988-91
26. 9 Antavious Wilson 2009-12*
9 Danny Abercrombie 1982-85
9 "Little" Ray Crisp 1975-78
*-Current members of Herd
Marshall also remembered former linebacker J.T. Rembert, who passed away this summer, during a time out, with his family and friends introduced the fans who gave a standing ovation, as did Doc Holliday and the entire Marshall team.
Rembert started the Johnathan Goddard Scholarship Golf outing in the name of his teammate, who also passed away very young in a motorcycle accident. The Goddard family was in town for this past Friday's tournament, held at Twin Silos Country Club in Lavalette, W.Va., and they were also introduced to the crowd.
Also honored were the two State Police officers killed in the line of duty about ten days ago in Clay County.
Steve White, former SID and former W Club administrator with Western Carolina, has joined the radio team calling the WCU games. White spoke with Steve Cotton in the Thundering Herd/IMG Sports Network pregame show about the rivalry from when MU, WCU and UT-Chattanooga joined the SoCon in 1977, and invited yours truly to share Marshall memories at halftime with the Western Carolina audience about the past 21 games between the two teams.