The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

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October 13, 2013

Haig’s FG completes Herd comeback

BOCA RATON, Fla. — Florida native Justin Haig connected on a season-long 41-yard field goal as time expired to give Marshall a 24-23 win over Florida Atlantic Saturday in front of 19,760 fans at FAU Stadium.

The Thundering Herd (4-2, 2-0 Conference USA), which had 34 players competing in their native state, trailed by nine points with just over 10 minutes to play. Facing a fourth-and-5 from the FAU 41-yard line, Marshall quarterback Rakeem Cato connected with senior tight end Gator Hoskins for a long touchdown. It was Hoskins’ team-leading fifth touchdown of the season and brought the Herd to within two points, 23-21, with 6:47 remaining.

A punt by the Owls (2-5, 1-4) gave Marshall possession at its own 9-yard line with 2:19 to play in the game and, eight plays later, with six seconds on the game clock, Haig nailed a field goal to complete the comeback.

“I kept fighting and my teammates told me to use my legs on that last drive,” said Cato, who finished 18-of-34 for 216 yards and was responsible for 70 total yards on the game-winning drive.  “We just kept going fast. Coach (Bill) Legg just put the ball in my hands and he told me to make something happen. I just trusted my receivers and trusted my offensive line and then let the special teams unit make the field goal.”

On a night when the offense produced a season-low 355 yards, Marshall’s special teams played well enough to score 10 points, including the its first score of the game, a 77-yard punt return touchdown by redshirt senior Devon Smith which gave Marshall a 7-0 lead early in the second quarter.

FAU’s first points came from a Mitch Anderson 26-yard field goal with 11 seconds remaining in the second quarter. Both offenses struggled in the first half as just 258 yards of total offense was recorded, but the Herd led at halftime 7-3.

The Owls started the second half on offense and made the most of it with a four-play, 75-yard drive resulting in a 2-yard touchdown run by running back Jonathan Wallace to go ahead 10-7 with 12:56 remaining in the third quarter.

After accumulating just 93 yards on its previous eight drives combined, the Marshall offense got back to its familiar pace with a 78-yard drive capped off by a 1-yard touchdown run by sophomore running back Kevin Grooms . The Herd led 14-10 with 9:04 to play in the third quarter.

FAU put points on the board just before the end of the quarter on a 5-yard touchdown completion from Jaquez Johnson to Nexon Dorvilus. However, the point-after attempt was missed by Anderson and the Owls’ lead was just two, 16-14, heading into the fourth quarter.

FAU scored on its second consecutive possession, a 1-yard touchdown run by Johnson, to increase the Owls’ lead to 23-14 with 10:01 to play in the game.

FAU dominated time of possession, 35:11-24:43, and even outgained the Herd 395-355, which made the win even sweeter for Marshall coach Doc Holliday.

“I don’t care if it’s pretty or not,” Holliday said. “If you get the win, that’s all that matters. I’m just proud of how this football team fought and it will help us down the road.”

Along with leading the team in passing, Cato was Marshall’s leading rusher with 45 yards, along with redshirt senior Essray Taliaferro. Grooms led the team with 14 carries and produced 42 yards.

Junior Tommy Shuler had the most receptions for the Herd with five and had 37 yards receiving. Hoskins and Smith each had 50 yards receiving.

Just as the offense was led by Florida natives, the defense was led by some of Georgia’s finest, as Neville Hewitt and Jermaine Holmes each led the team with eight tackles. Freshman Stefan Houston recorded six tackles.

Johnson led the Owls in passing with 187 yards and rushing with 83 yards.

Marshall will next play at Middle Tennessee on Thursday, Oct. 24, at 7:30 p.m. The game will be televised on Fox Sports 1.

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