Caption: Southern Miss quarterback Cole Weeks passes against Marshall’s defense during the Saturday night Homecoming Game. The Eagle’s fall 63-17. Photo by Susan Broadbridge/Printz
Marshall was clearly the superiorly talented team Saturday night, running all over Southern Miss en route to a 63-17 win to stay undefeated.
The game started near perfect for the Golden Eagles, marching right down the field on the opening drive which was capped off by a 2-yard touchdown plunge by Ito Smith.
The Golden Eagles then recovered the ensuing onside kick and marched down the field again with Smith capping off the drive with another 2-yard touchdown run.
Then USM did it again, recovering yet another onside kick, but were flagged for offsides, which allowed Marshall quarterback Rakeem Cato to finally step foot on the field, changing the landscape of the game completely.
Once Cato stepped onto the field, it was clear he was the best player in the stadium. He was in sync with his receivers from the get go and guided Marshall into the red zone with ease.
Facing a third-and-goal from the Southern Miss 2-yard line, Cato scrambled outside of the pocket, backtracking all the way back to the 30-yard line before firing a strike to Remi Watson, who dragged his feet inbounds for the touchdown.
From there, the onslaught was on as Marshall outscored Southern Miss 63-3 over the final 50 minutes of the game.
Backup quarterback Cole Weeks struggled replacing starter Nick Mullens for the third straight week, throwing an interception and losing two fumbles. But the Southern Miss ground game continued its recent surge as Smith ran for 141 yards and two touchdowns.
But Smith’s success on the ground was nothing compared to what Marshall was able to accomplish on the ground against the Golden Eagle defense. Five Marshall players combined for 335 yards rushing and seven touchdowns on 38 carries, good for an average of 8.8 yards per carry.
Cato had a great day too, completing 13-19 passes for 189 yards and two touchdowns and also ran for 92 yards and a touchdown on nine carries.
Southern Miss came into the game as heavy underdogs and needed to win the turnover battle to have a chance, but lost it three to one. Marshall’s one turnover came on the onside kick that they failed to recover in the first quarter.
The Golden Eagles’ hopes for reaching a bowl game came to an end as they fell to 3-7 on the season. While many look at reaching a bowl game important solely for recruiting purposes, but a young, rebuilding team like Southern Miss would benefit greatly from an extra month of practices.
Even though they will not be going bowling for the third straight year, Southern Miss can still build on what has been a positive season in which they have accumulated three times as many wins as the past two seasons combined.
They will get that chance Thursday as they travel to San Antonio, Texas on a short week to play UTSA.