No. 21 Marshall throttles Rice 41-14
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (AP) Rakeem Cato has developed a close relationship with former Marshall quarterback Chad Pennington that included time spent studying film.
On Saturday, Pennington watched as Cato broke another one of his school records.
Cato threw four touchdown passes, Devon Johnson rushed for 199 yards and a score and No. 21 Marshall beat Rice 41-14 on Saturday.
Cato had scoring tosses of 2, 25, 30 and 7 yards to give him 117 for his career, eclipsing Pennington's mark of 115 set from 1995-99.
Cato also extended his FBS-record of consecutive games with a touchdown pass to 42.
''People probably won't appreciate what he's done until he's gone,'' Marshall coach Doc Holliday said. ''The kid deserves everything he gets. He's the most competitive quarterback I've ever coached.''
After the career touchdown record was announced over the stadium's loudspeakers in the third quarter, Cato shook hands with each of his offensive linemen.
Pennington and Cato exchanged a hug during the timeout when Pennington was introduced to the crowd and it was announced the school's athletic hall of fame was being named after him.
Earlier this season, Cato broke Pennington's career marks for completions, attempts and total offense. Pennington's record of 13,143 yards passing also is within reach.
''That's like my big brother,'' said Cato, who went 23 of 37 for 297 yards. ''We talk all the time. We have a great relationship. Not only do we talk about football, but I have two kids of my own. He has kids. I'm learning from him how to be a father.''
Marshall improved to 10-0 for the first time since it went 13-0 in 1999. The Thundering Herd (6-0 Conference USA) limited Rice to 180 total yards and ended the Owls' six-game winning streak.
The Thundering Herd got a convincing victory against one of only two teams on their schedule with winning records entering Saturday's play.
Marshall isn't in the College Football Playoff rankings, but is trying to show the CFP committee that it's worthy of one of the guaranteed prominent bowl berths given to the Group of Five conferences.
Marshall finished with 581 yards of offense and is the only FBS team to score at least 35 points in every game.
''There's always been the gripe all season that we don't have the strength of schedule,'' Marshall tight end Eric Frohnapfel said. ''This is a good win for us. Eventually we're going to get the attention we deserve.''
A year ago Rice limited Marshall's running game in the conference championship game and beat the Thundering Herd 41-24. This year, Marshall has Johnson, who converted from tight end to running back before the season.
Rice (6-4, 4-2) entered the game allowing an average of only 135 yards on the ground, but Johnson and Marshall had that matched by halftime.
Johnson went over 100 yards for the eighth time this season. He sat out last week's win at Southern Miss with a sore left knee and was coming off a school-record 272 yards against Florida Atlantic.
''He, in my opinion, is the difference,'' Rice coach David Bailiff said. ''Cato was great last year, but now they have the rushing that they can depend on. When he touched the ball, he is a full head of steam, great vision on the field, and hard to bring down.''
Marshall jumped ahead 20-7 at halftime and scored touchdowns on three straight possessions in the second half. Rice had allowed only three second-half TDs in its previous five games combined.
Marshall had fallen behind early in its previous three games, but forced Rice to punt on its first five drives and gave quarterback Driphus Jackson little room to operate. Jackson went 11 of 23 for 99 yards.
''It was fun to watch,'' Holliday said of his defense. ''This may be the best (effort) we've had since I've been here.''