By Gary Fauber
Assistant Sports Editor
Way before the first half ended, the only question remaining for Marshall was, when would backup quaterback Blake Frohnapfel play?
Frohnapfel finally got in with a little over five minutes remaining in the third quarter. That was a little later than Herd fans wanted, but it was no indication of how the team played.
This one was out of control long before Frohnapfel traded his cap for a helmet.
Steward Butler ran for three touchdowns, and the Marshall defense forced six turnovers in a 55-0 win over Gardner-Webb in front of 26,317 fans Saturday at Joan C. Edwards Stadium.
Marshall is now 2-0 for the first time since 1999, when quarterback Chad Pennington and Co. went 13-0 and finished the season ranked 10th in the country.
The Herd scored on all but two of its first half possessions, taking a 34-0 lead into the break. Coach Doc Holliday had preached getting out of the gates quicker than it did in its win over Miami (Ohio) in the season opener, which was tied at 14-14 at halftime.
“We talked all week about starting fast and playing well early, and I thought our kids did that,” Holliday said. “I think the kick return by Butler set the tone for the game. For the most part we played well.”
The running game took center stage for the Herd. In addition to returning the game’s opening kick 45 yards, Butler ran for 151 yards and touchdowns of 9, 46 and 13 yards on nine carries. The redshirt sophomore from Lakeland, Fla., scored three touchdowns all of last season.
“I had nine carries?” Butler asked, surprised he was so successful on so few touches. “I practiced hard this week, and our O-line played good. That’s what is expected of us. Not saying they are a bad team, but against them we should do those kinds of things.”
Butler limped off the field after a 55-yard run late in the second quarter, but returned in the second half.
As the trend of Football Championship Subdivision teams giving bigger schools fits continued, Marshall was never challenged by the Runnin’ Bulldogs. Gardner-Webb did make a few big plays — its nine first downs in the first half matched the overall total for Miami (Ohio) — but the Herd harrassed quarterback Lucas Beatty until he, too, exited in the third quarter.
Beatty was sacked four times and threw two interceptions, and he also fumbled in the first half.
His backup, Nat Dunlap, took over with 7:19 left in the third — before Frohnapfel took over for Marshall starter Rakeem Cato.
Cato’s numbers were a bit pedestrian — 16-of-28 for 230 yards and a touchdown. He also threw an interception, but had an 8-yard touchdown run in the second quarter.
After Butler’s 13-yard TD put Marshall ahead 48-0 halfway through the third, the night was finished for most of the Herd starters. That included Cato, and Frohnapfel was applauded as he trotted onto the field to start a drive at the Marshall 35-yard line.
The redshirt sophomore from Stafford, Va., hooked up with his twin brother, tight end Eric Frohnapfel, for a 1-yard touchdown and 55-point Marshall lead with 2:11 to go in the third.
Blake Frohnapfel was 6-of-7 for 55 yards.
“Our thought was to come out in the second half and take it back down and score,” Holliday said of the decision of how long to keep Cato in. “I’d have liked to have seen Froh throw a little more, but we had a couple bad snaps. But Froh did some really good things.”
Running back Remi Watson made his debut on Frohnapfel’s first series. The redshirt sophomore from Lakeland, Fla., who missed the Miami game because of injury finished with seven carries for 24 yards.
Marshall outgained the Bulldogs 509-184.
The defense posted Marshall’s first shutout since beating Ohio 28-0 in the 2003 season finale on a frigid day after Thanksgiving.
A.J. Leggett, Monterius Lovett and Andre Scott all had interceptions for the Herd, which has not been scored on in six quarters. Lovett returned his pick — the sixth of his career — 70 yards for a touchdown and 31-0 lead in the second quarter.
The Herd also recovered three fumbles.
“When I came to Marshall, I had never seen a shutout,” said Leggett, whose interception was the first of his career. “To be a part of that is an honor.”
Beatty was 7-of-15 for 101 yards. Juanne Blount, who went for over 100 yards in Gardner-Webb’s season-opening win over Furman, was held to 53 yards on 15 carries.
Marshall will visit rival Ohio next Saturday for an 8 p.m. kickoff. The game will air live on ESPNews.
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