FACTS & STATS: Site: Joan C. Edwards Stadium (38,019) -- Huntington, West Virginia. Television: Time Warner Cable SportsChannel. Home Record: UTSA 0-2, MU 2-0. Away Record: UTSA 2-1, MU 0-2. Neutral Record: UTSA 0-0, MU 0-0. Conference Record: UTSA 1-0, MU 0-0. Series Record: First meeting.
GAME NOTES: The Marshall Thundering Herd hope to end their two-game losing slide as they open up their Conference USA season at Joan C. Edwards Stadium against the Texas-San Antonio Roadrunners.
Marshall began the 2013 campaign with some firepower and outscored Miami-Ohio and Gardner-Webb, 107-14, in its first two games to improve to 2-0 for the first time since 1999. The Thundering Herd hurt their chances in week three with four turnovers and lost by three points to Ohio in the Battle for the Bell Series. Coach Doc Holliday's squad had last week off after it was dealt a heartbreaking, 29-21 loss by Virginia Tech in a triple-overtime thriller at Lane Stadium.
Larry Coker has done a tremendous job of guiding the UTSA program into the FBS. The Roadrunners fell to 2-3 on the season last week as they were dealt a 59-28 loss by Houston at home. UTSA is still 1-0 in C-USA action thanks to its 32-13 rout of Texas-El Paso in week four. Coker's team has gone 2-1 in true road games this season and has won six of last nine away from the Alamodome. UTSA began its season with a 21-13 victory over New Mexico before consecutive losses to Oklahoma State (56-35) and Arizona (38-13).
This will be the first meeting in history between these programs.
Marshall led the FBS in passing yards last season behind a sensational season from Rakeem Cato, who extended his streak of games with a touchdown pass to 22 in the loss at Virginia Tech. Cato went 19-of-41 for 228 yards with two touchdowns to a pair of interceptions. The junior signal caller threw a perfect pass on the final play of the game that should have marked his third TD of the contest, but the ball fell through the hands of Davonte Allen. The Herd lost despite Essray Taliaferro gaining 105 yards on 26 rushes. Cato also added 46 yards and a touchdown on 15 attempts. Tommy Shuler had another stellar outing as he reeled in 10 catches for 120 yards.
Junior wideout Tommy Shuler had a strong showing in the loss as well with 10 catches for 120 yards. He is the third-leading receiver in the C-USA at 91.8 ypg. Tight end Gator Hoskins has made a team-high four TD grabs. The passing attack has not been quite as stellar this season due to a noticeable improvement in the run game. MU is gaining 194.3 yards rushing per contest compared to its average of 169.2 in 2012. Steward Butler is the top rusher for the Herd with 278 yards and three scores. Taliaferro and Kevin Grooms are both used frequently also.
Cato had trouble completing passes at a high rate against Virginia Tech. He still sits atop the Herd's all-time record book with a 65.2 career completion rate, which is just ahead of former MU stars Byron Leftwich and Chad Pennington.
Marshall has been able to run the ball much more this season thanks to the immediate boost that first-year defensive coordinator Chuck Heater has provided. The Herd ranked 101st in the FBS in total defense (456.6 ypg) and 119th in scoring defense (43.1 ppg) last season. They are currently 11th in the nation with only 285.0 yards allowed per outing. The Herd's defense held the Hokies to just seven points for the first 56:51 of the game before Virginia Tech's late touchdown and overtime points. Junior linebacker Jermaine Holmes is an impact player for Holliday and has impressive totals of 23 tackles, 5.5 TFL and one sack.
The Roadrunners played the Cougars even through the first 30 minutes before unraveling after halftime. UTSA took some momentum into the intermission as Eric Soza completed a touchdown pass to Earon Holmes late in the second quarter to tie the score at 21. The Cougars took control and outscored UTSA, 28-0, in the fourth quarter to deny UTSA its first home win.
Soza was picked off three times by Houston just one week after avoiding any turnovers versus UTEP. The senior quarterback completed 29-of-40 passes for 316 yards with two touchdowns. UTSA gained 491 yards of total offense and allowed Houston to 493 offensive yards. Penalties played a role as the Roadrunners were flagged 10 times for 73 yards. Kam Jones had four receptions for 77 yards and a touchdown, while David Glasco II rushed for 28 yards and a score on nine carries.
Soza keeps the defense guessing as he spreads the ball out among his teammates. The Texas State transfer completed passes to 15 different receivers, including a team-high five to Brandon Freeman for 50 yards in the setback to Houston. Freeman is one of four Roadrunners with more than 123 receiving yards this season. Kenny Bias and Cole Hubble have made a pair of touchdown grabs each. The Roadrunners are averaging 431 total offensive yards per game with only 140.6 coming on the ground. Glasco is Coker's most productive tailback with 188 yards and four TDs on 41 carries.
The UTSA defense allowed Houston to tally 59 points to set a new high for an opponent last week. Coker's team is still sixth in the C-USA in total defense (402.6 ypg). The Roadrunners did manage to limit Houston to a season-low 150 yards rushing. Triston Wade continued to stand out on the defensive unit for UTSA as he recorded 12 total tackles. He is ranked first on the team and sixth in the conference with 9.4 tackles per game.
Both of these offenses have the ability to score in a moment's notice. UTSA is much less proven and can be streaky. Although both of the Herd's losses came against respectable programs, they could have been 4-0 through as many games if their execution was up to par. Marshall's homefield advantage will play a small roll as it welcomes UTSA to Huntington for the first time in history.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Marshall 48, Texas-San Antonio 34
10/02 10:33:56 ET
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