By Gary Fauber
Assistant Sports Editor
Marshall hung 50 points on its first two opponents — one team that is 0-2 and another that plays in the Football Championship Subdivision. Both of those games were at home.
Tonight, the Thundering Herd gets the chance to see how proficient it can be on the road, against a rival that has been a thorn the last two years.
The 12th installment of the Battle for the Bell series between Marshall (2-0) and Ohio (1-1) will kick off at 8 p.m. at Peden Stadium in Athens, Ohio. The game can be seen on ESPNews.
It will be the first road test of the season for the Herd and the start of a string of four trips in five games.
After beating Miami (Ohio) 52-14 and Gardner-Webb 55-0, the Herd will find out what it’s made of tonight.
“Any time you go on the road, one thing you have to have is great leadership,” Marshall coach Doc Holliday said. “We expect the 11 captains that we have (so far) to provide great leadership, along with the other leaders on the team. That’s the number one thing you have to do when playing on the road. It has to get done by those players.”
Marshall can expect a rambunctious bunch of fans, riding high after its two straight wins in the series.
Before last year’s 27-24 win in Huntington, the Bobcats embarrassed Marshall 44-7 in 2011 before a “blackout” at Peden Stadium. Quarterback Rakeem Cato, then a true freshman, was intercepted four times in the first half.
Cato had a markedly better game last year, completing 44 of 65 passes for 432 yards and three touchdowns. The completions set a team record.
But it was Cato’s interception in the final 30 seconds that ended hopes of a comeback.
Cato bounced back from that to become Conference USA Freshman of the Year. Ohio coach Frank Solich expects the junior from Miami to be as good as advertised.
“Cato is an outstanding quarterback and has been since the day he arrived,” Solich said.
As much as Cato has struggled in the series, his Ohio counterpart has thrived.
Marshall has been unable to solve senior Bobcats quarterback Tyler Tettleton in two meetings. He is a combined 40-of-64 for 485 yards and six touchdowns in his two starts against the Herd, and he has 88 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries.
The 2011 game was his breakout, when he completed 20 of 29 passes for 285 yards and three touchdowns, and ran the ball nine times for 53 yards and a touchdown.
Tettleton led the Bobcats to field goals on their final two drives in last Saturday’s 27-21 win over North Texas.
“That’s what he does and that’s what he has done for the last two years,” Holliday said. “Tettleton played his best football on those last couple drives to find a way to pull it out for them and that’s what he has done his entire career.”
— E-mail: gfauber