Marshall hands Blue Raiders first conference loss of year

Photo by Gregory French.

In a highly touted matchup between two Conference-USA powerhouses, Rakeem Cato and the Marshall Thundering Herd proved too much for the Blue Raiders (4-3, 3-1 C-USA) Saturday afternoon.

It was a game that pitched the top two teams in the Conference-USA East division, and the Herd (6-0, 2-0 C-USA) gained breathing room at the top of the standings after their 49-24 victory over Middle Tennessee at Joan C. Edwards Stadium.

The Blue Raiders slipped to third in the C-USA East standings, dropping behind Florida International in the rankings, who have a contest against UTSA tonight.

The Thundering Herd offense had their way in the contest as Marshall running back Devon Johnson racked up 134 rushing yards on just 19 carries, good for 7.1 yards per carry.

Johnson also added three out of the four rushing touchdowns that the Herd compiled on the ground. Senior quarterback Rakeem Cato completed 17-of-33 passes for 337 yards and added three touchdowns and one interception.

Overall, the Marshall offense tallied 589 total yards of offense against the Blue Raiders, compared to Middle Tennessee’s 370 total offensive yards.

MT sophomore quarterback Austin Grammer completed 25-of-37 passes for 201 yards and threw two touchdowns and one interception.

Junior running back Jordan Parker led the way in rushing for the Blue Raiders with 100 yards on 14 carries, averaging 7.1 yards per carry. It was Parker’s second 100-yard rushing performance of the season.

Marshall got out to a quick 14-0 lead in the first quarter after two Johnson touchdown runs. Middle Tennessee would finally get on the board with 2:23 left in the first quarter after a six-yard touchdown pass from Grammer to Parker.

Early in the second quarter, Cato connected with Craig Wilkins on a 26-yard pass to push the Marshall lead to 21-7. MT settled for a Cody Clark field goal midway through the second quarter, cutting the lead to 21-10.

The Herd capitalized on MT’s failure to reach the end zone as Cato would find Deon-Tay McManus on a 29-yard touchdown pass to give Marshall a 28-10 advantage.

Middle Tennessee responded right before halftime following a Marshall turnover, as Grammer found Shane Tucker on a four-yard dump off to go into the break trailing 28-17.

That would be the last touchdown the Blue Raiders would score until the 4:29 mark in the fourth quarter.

Marshall’s offense opened up in the second half, scoring 21 unanswered points to give the Thundering Herd a comfortable 49-17 lead in the opening moments of the fourth quarter.

MT would add a garbage-time touchdown late in the fourth quarter, after Jeremiah Bryson scored from one yard out to cut the eventual deficit to 49-24.

The Blue Raiders will return to Floyd Stadium to host UAB on Homecoming weekend, with kickoff for the contest starting at 2:30 p.m. CT.

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To contact sports editor Connor Grott, email

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