WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - Sophomore Rakeem Cato, the nation's top passer, threw for a career-high 439 yards and five touchdowns, but had three interceptions as Marshall dropped its final non-conference game of the season to Purdue 51-41 Saturday at Ross-Ade Stadium.
The Thundering Herd (2-3), which trailed 42-14 at halftime, held Purdue (3-1) to just nine points in the second half, but the deficit was too much to overcome despite another productive day by an offense that entered the game ranked seventh in the NCAA in total yards.
"If you take care of the football it's a different game," head coach Doc Holliday said. "They're a good football team and are picked by a lot of people to win their division. I'm just proud of the way our kids played in the second half. We are a better team because of it."
Not since Byron Leftwich (447) in 2002 had a Herd quarterback thrown for as many yards as Cato did on Saturday. He completed 45-of-68 attempts, the most completions ever by a Purdue opponent. Three of Cato's five touchdowns were to junior tight end Gator Hoskins, the most by a single player since Josh Davis (3) in 2003.
Sophomore Tommy Shulerbroke the Marshall record for receptions in a game with 19. He had 200 yards receiving, the first Herd player to reach 200 yards since Davis had 264 in 2002.
Freshman Kevin Grooms led the rushing effort with eight carries for 53 yards. Steward Butleralso had eight carries and had 26 yards. The Herd finished with 534 yards of offense, just under its season average of 561.
Purdue had 443 yards of offense which Marshall matched early on as the two teams traded blows to a 14-14 tie following a 12-yard pass from Cato to Hoskins with 14:13 remaining in the first half.
Purdue then scored 28 unanswered points thanks to three Cato interceptions, two of which were returned for touchdowns. The Boilermakers took a 42-14 lead into halftime.
After holding Purdue three-and-out on its opening drive of the second half, the Herd scored on its first possession, a 28-yard pass from Cato to Hoskins to make the score 42-21.
Marshall's defense forced Purdue to punt on its second possession. On the ensuing punt, Jermain Kelson blocked the attempt and the ball was picked up and returned for a touchdown by Derek Mitchellas the Herd trailed 42-28 with 6:09 remaining in the third quarter.
After a Purdue field goal, Marshall put together a 9-play, 77-yard scoring drive that ended with a one-yard touchdown pass from Cato to Hoskins to cut the deficit to 45-34 with 12:35 to play.
The Boilermakers increased their lead to 51-38 after a long drive that took just over six minutes and 13 plays. The Herd responded on the following drive with a 15-yard touchdown pass from Cato to sophomore wide receiver Craig Wilkins, his first career score to bring Marshall within 10 points, 51-41 after a two-point conversion attempt was no good.
Purdue quarterback Caleb TerBush completed 27-of-37 attempts for 294
yards and four touchdowns. Wide receiver Gary Bush had three of those
touchdowns and 83 yards receiving. Akeem Shavers carried the ball 25
times for 73 yards and one touchdown. -HerdZone.com
Marshall will host Tulsa next Saturday at 3:30 p.m. The homecoming game will be broadcast on CBSSN.