HOUSTON - Marshall used a rushing attack that amassed 334 yards and six touchdowns to defeat Rice 54-51 in double overtime Saturday at Rice Stadium.
The Herd (2-2, 1-0 Conference USA) showed why its offense ranks in the top 10 in the nation with 593 total yards. Marshall entered the game leading the NCAA in passing yards, but it was the team's ground game that led to a thrilling win and the most points by two teams (105) in program history.
Three redshirt freshmen led the running game as Steward Butler had 18 carries for 166 yards and one touchdown, the most yards by a member of the Herd since Darius Marshall's 203 in 2009. Kevin Grooms rushed the ball 12 times for 103 yards and three touchdowns. It was the first time two Marshall players had rushed for over 100 yards since Nov. 21, 2009 (SMU).
Remi Watson, who made his first career start, had 14 carries for 84 yards and two touchdowns including a 5-yard score to win the game in the second overtime period.
The nation's leading passer, Rakeem Cato, completed 28-of-39 attempts for 259 yards and two touchdowns. His most popular target was Tommy Shuler who finished with eight catches for 87 yards.
"I was proud of this team," said Marshall head coach Doc Holliday. "Offensively, we played extremely well. Grooms and Butler played really well. We have to get better in a lot of areas, but it will be a happy plane on the way home. As long as we keep playing hard and take care of the football, we can win some games."
Marshall got on the board first as Grooms capped the Herd's second possession with a 17-yard touchdown run. Rice (1-3, 0-1 C-USA) also scored on its second drive of the game, a 30-yard run by Turner Peterson to tie the game 7-7 with 3:44 remaining in the first quarter.
The Herd needed just under two minutes to go 79 yards for a score on its next possession due to Butler's 57-yard touchdown run. The rush was a season-long for the Herd and gave it a 14-7 lead at the end of the first quarter.
Marshall extended its lead to 21-7 with a 5-yard touchdown pass from Cato to Grooms which capped a 9-play 82-yard drive. Rice responded on its next possession with a change of attack. After running the ball the majority of the half, quarterback Taylor McHargue threw a deep pass to Donte Moore for a 43-yard touchdown to bring the Owls within seven points at 21-14.
Rice scored on its first possession of the second half to tie the game 21-21. Marshall started the next drive on its own 9-yard line, but needed just 1:56 to go the distance, thanks to a 45-yard touchdown run by Grooms to give the Herd a 28-21 lead.
A 50-yard touchdown pass allowed Rice to tie the game at 28-28 with 7:42 to play in the third quarter. Marshall responded with a 9-play 75-yard drive which ended with a 1-yard pass from Cato to tight end Gator Hoskins. The Herd led 35-28 and took that lead into the fourth quarter.
Rice's Chris Boswell made a 39-yard field goal, one of three in the game, to cut into the Herd lead, 35-31 with 13:49 remaining in regulation.
Remi Watson's 2-yard touchdown run capped a 15-play drive that took just over five minutes, Marshall's longest of the day, to give the Herd a 41-31 lead with 4:10 to play in the game.
A 47-yard run by McHargue down to the Marshall 1-yard line gave Rice three chances to score the go-ahead touchdown. The Rice quarterback was injured on the play and did not return the remainder of the game. The Herd defense, which allowed 647 total yards, held the Owls to a 23-yard field goal to send the game into overtime.
"Our defense got the game into overtime and we found a way to win this thing," Holliday said.
It took Marshall just four plays to score on the first possession of overtime, a 4-yard run by Watson. Rice then scored on three plays to tie the game once again, 48-48.
In the second overtime, the Herd defense held the Owls to a field goal which gave Marshall's offense a chance to win the game with a touchdown and that it did. To keep with the trend of the game, Marshall's Watson rushed for 20 yards on the first play from scrimmage and Grooms finished the game with a 5-yard rush for the touchdown.
McHargue finished the game with 153 yards rushing and 314 yards passing, both career highs.