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The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, September 14, 8:00 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Peden Stadium (24,000) -- Athens, Ohio. Television: ESPN News. Home Record: Marshall 2-0, Ohio 1-0. Away Record: Marshall 0-0, Ohio 0-1. Neutral Record: Marshall 0-0, Ohio 0-0. Conference Record: Marshall 0-0, Ohio 0-0. Series Record: Ohio leads, 31-19-6.
GAME NOTES: The Marshall Thundering Herd will travel about 80 miles across the state border as they take on the Ohio University Bobcats at Peden Stadium in the 2013 Battle for the Bell.
The Bobcats have won the matchup between the former Mid-American Conference rivals in each of the past two seasons to extend their all-time series lead to 31-19-6. Ohio escaped a thriller in Huntington with a 27-24 victory in 2012 for their second consecutive win over the Herd, who won seven in a row over the Bobcats from 2001-10.
Doc Holliday's Thundering Herd have coasted so far in 2013. They opened up the campaign with a 52-14 rout of Miami-Ohio at home as they outscored the RedHawks 38-0 in the second half. Marshall then posted a 55-0 victory over Gardner-Webb last week to improve to 2-0 for the first time since 1999, which it finished undefeated at 13-0. The Herd had not submitted back-to-back 50- point performances since it returned to the major division of college football in 1997.
The Bobcats had their hopes of a perfect season ruined in their season opener as they were dismantled by 42 points at Louisville. Frank Solich's team regained its footing at home versus North Texas in week two as Matt Green connected on a pair of field goal attempts in the fourth quarter to help Ohio secure a 27-21 win over the Mean Green. The Bobcats have lost just one home game in each of the past three seasons.
In Marshall's victory over Gardner-Webb, junior quarterback Rakeem Cato moved into sixth place on the school's career passing yards list (6,671). The Herd led the FBS in passing yards per game last season thanks to their star QB's effort. Due to the lopsided nature of their first two games, the Herd have averaged only 286 passing yards per game in 2013. Cato completed 16-of-28 pass attempts for 230 yards and a touchdown, while playing just over two quarters in his most recent appearance.
Junior wideout Tommy Shuler made five catches for 85 yards and a score in the victory over Gardner-Webb. The speedy Shuler had a breakout year in 2012, amassing 1,138 yards and six touchdowns on 110 receptions. He is leading Marshall through two games with 14 catches and 152 yards. Tight end Gator Hoskins was Cato's favorite red zone target in 2012 and appears to have that title once again. Two of his four receptions this season have resulted in six points.
Marshall's rushing game seems to have caught up to its top tier aerial attack. Steward Butler and Essray Taliaferro are sharing the tailback duties for Holliday's offense. Taliaferro is averaging 4.3 yards per carry and has rushed a team-high 31 times. Butler is coming off a career game versus Gardner-Webb. The sophomore halfback contributed 151 yards and three touchdowns on only nine carries. Butler is averaging 9.9 yards per carry after his busy day on Saturday.
Defensively, the Thundering Herd have not allowed a point in six quarters. In his first year with the team, defensive coordinator Chuck Heater has his unit playing at a very high caliber. They had not pitched a shutout since a 28-0 win over Ohio in the 2003 season finale, a span of 111 games. Marshall forced six turnovers against Gardner-Webb and also scored a defensive touchdown for the second straight week when Monterius Lovett returned an interception 70 yards to the house. Junior linebacker Neville Hewitt has registered a team- high total of 13 tackles through two games.
Marshall has not faced a team as solid offensively as Ohio to this point. The Bobcats racked up 442 yards of total offense against NT in their home opener. Senior quarterback Tyler Tettleton connected with Chase Cochran on a 75-yard touchdown pass on the first play of the game. Tettleton, who finished the game with 239 yards passing, owns nine program career records, including the school standard for passing yards (6,653), completions (534) and touchdowns (48).
Although Cochran paced the team against the Mean Green with 103 yards on six catches, Donte Foster made an impact as well with seven receptions for 59 yards. Foster set career-highs with 59 catches, 658 yards and eight touchdowns in 2012 while serving as Ohio's top option in the passing game.
Ohio often used Beau Blankenship as its work horse last season. The senior tailback amassed a single-season school record 1,604 yards in 2012, but has gotten off to a slow start to 2013. After being limited to just 22 yards on 12 carries with a fumble by Louisville, Blankenship produced 83 yards on 14 attempts versus North Texas. Ryan Boykin was the Bobcats' leading rusher for the second straight week with 93 yards on 19 carries.
Solich's defense was no match for Louisville in its opener as it allowed Teddy Bridgewater and the Cardinals to gain 615 yards of total offense. Ohio was much better against NT, limiting the Mean Green to just 229 yards. It also forced four turnovers. Jovon Johnson had a milestone day in the victory, returning an interception for a touchdown and recovering a fumble for the first time in his career. The Bobcats had not scored on an interception return since 2011.
Ohio has been able to knock off Marshall in two straight seasons, but Holliday has never had such a complete squad since he arrived in Huntington. The Herd's improvement on the defensive side of the ball could have them competing for the 2013 C-USA championship. Although Cato is not as heralded as Bridgewater, he will be able to find the same type of success against Ohio's lacking pass defense.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Marshall 38, Ohio 30
09/11 10:33:00 ET