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Rice's defense shuts down Marshall to help Owls capture Conference USA title

Cody Bauer (90)Rice's defense held Marshall's offense in check in the C-USA championship. (Brendan Maloney/USA Today Sports)

Marshall's offense, which averages more than 500 total yards per game, has been the story of its 2013 season. Rice's defense, which surrenders fewer than 350, has been nearly as dominant.

On Saturday, the Owls held the normally prolific Thundering Herd to 371 total yards to claim the Conference USA championship with a 41-24 win. It is Rice's first outright conference title since 1957.

Marshall's attack couldn't establish a rhythm, while the Owls found the end zone twice in the first eight minutes to jump out to an early 14-0 lead. The Herd -- who came in averaging nearly 45 points per game and hung 59 on East Carolina last week -- didn't score a touchdown until midway through the second quarter, by which point the Owls already held a 18-point lead.

Entering the day, Marshall quarterback Rakeem Cato had accounted for 40 total touchdowns and tailback Essray Taliaferro had rushed for 1,006 yards and nine scores. Cato went 24-of-41 for 265 yards with two touchdowns and an interception; Taliaferro carried 17 times for just 53 yards. On the other sideline, Rice racked up 487 yards of total offense, fueled by standout performances from quarterback Taylor McHargue, running back Charles Ross and wide receiver Jordan Taylor.

With the victory, the Owls secure a berth in the Liberty Bowl in Memphis on Dec. 31. Marshall has accepted a bid to the Military Bowl.

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