Undefeated Marshall suffered its first loss of the season Friday as Western Kentucky stunned the No. 24 Thundering Herd in overtime. The loss ends Marshall's hopes of earning the Group of Five's spot in a New Year's Six bowl.
Marshall’s undefeated season is no more. The No. 24 Thundering Herd watched their New Year’s Six bowl hopes slip away at home with a 67-66 loss to Western Kentucky in overtime Friday, which dropped their record to 11-1 on the season.
The Herd, which finally got the ranking this week they were so desperately seeking from the College Football Playoff selection committee, trailed 59-52 late in the fourth quarter before senior quarterback Rakeem Cato (417 yards, seven touchdowns, four interceptions) engineered a scoring drive to tie the score, punctuated by a five-yard pass to Eric Frohnapfel that required a review to confirm that Frohnapfel crossed the goalline.
In overtime, Cato connected with Hyleck Foster, who tiptoed down the sideline to put Marshall up 66-59. Then it was Western Kentucky’s turn, and quarterback Brandon Doughty, who threw for 491 yards and eight (not a typo) touchdowns on the day, hit Jared Dangerfield for 25 yards and the touchdown. Rather than playing for the tie, the Hilltoppers went for two, and it looked easy as Doughty hit Willie McNeal.
There were 1,446 yards of total offense in the game, and it was actually 49-42 at the half. Here are a couple other ridiculous stats to put this one in perspective:
Rakeem Cato (7 TDs) and Brandon Doughty (8 TDs) combined for 15 TD passes to set new FBS single-game record.— Jon Solomon (@JonSolomonAspen) November 28, 2014
Two dozen college basketball games last year went to OT with a lower score than currently in WKU-Marshall.— Timothy Burke (@bubbaprog) November 28, 2014
Marshall had been craving respect all season long, and Conference USA even hired a public relations firm to send stats and releases to the media to try to prop up the Thundering Herd’s accomplishments throughout the year. Marshall’s schedule had been consistently under the microscope when it came to the other Group of Five teams -- the Herd did not play a single Power Five team -- and even with an undefeated record, it was ranked below two-loss Boise State in the committee’s rankings on Tuesday.
This loss destroys Marshall’s chances at playing as the Group of Five’s representatives in a New Year’s Six bowl and is a sour finish to the regular season for Cato and the senior class, who deserve credit for their 11-0 start to the season. Regardless of the schedule put in front of a team, when you’re taking everybody’s best shot, staying perfect takes a toll on anyone. Just ask Florida State, which has won close games in almost every way imaginable throughout the year. Marshall just couldn’t take a page from the Seminoles’ playbook to pull a close win Friday.