HATTIESBURG, Miss. -Marshall University put on its most dominating performance of the season here Friday night, blasting hapless Southern Mississippi, 59-24, in a Conference USA game.
The Thundering Herd (3-4) snapped a two-game losing streak in grand style, taking a 10-3 first-quarter lead and then scoring 35 points in the middle two quarters to send winless Southern Mississippi to its seventh straight setback, thus eliminating the Golden Eagles from going to a bowl game.
Herd quarterback Rakeem Cato completed 31 of his 42 pass attempts for 342 yards and three touchdowns while Kevin Grooms rushed for 119 yards and a pair of scores. Marshall accounted for 629 yards total offense.
Marshall took the opening kickoff and drove to the Southern Mississippi 4 before missing a field goal. But the Herd's next two drives resulted in a 44-yard three-pointer by Justin Haig and a 3-yard TD run by Remi Watson for a 10-3 lead.
But the Herd was just getting started. On its first possession of the second quarter, Southern Miss lost a fumble at its own 28 and Marshall needed just four plays to score with Cato hitting Antavious Wilson for a 14 yard TD and a 17-3 edge. But the Eagles temporarily got back in the game when they intercepted a Cato pass and returned it for a TD with 9:24 left in the half.
That last 9:24 saw two more Marshall touchdowns -one on a 64-yard run by Kevin Grooms and the other on a 25-yard pass from Cato to Tommy Shuler, as well as a Southern Mississippi TD on a 22-yard run by Desmond Johnson. It was 31-17 Marshall at halftime, but the Herd was just getting warmed up.
It was the third quarter when Marshall put away the game. First, Cato hit Shuler with a 1-yard TD with 10:54 to go, then Grooms scored from 11 yards out with 5:30 left in the stanza. It was 45-17 Herd and this one had turned into a stampede.
Steward Butler's 54-yard TD in the fourth quarter was Cato's last drive under center, but his replacement. Blake Frohnapfel, led the Herd to another score, a 1-yard run by Esray Taliafero with 5:41 to play for a 59-17 lead.
Marshall returns to action next Saturday night when Central Florida visits Joan C. Edwards Stadium for an 8 p.m. contest.