The Thundering Herd went into Big Ten country and, to be honest, it could have been worse. After that second quarter — all three interceptions with two returned for touchdowns — the wheels could have fallen off the bus, but they didn’t. The Herd just couldn’t get the bus back in top gear by the time the game ended. With that said, here are some things to think about as Marshall prepares for Homecoming and a return to Conference USA play.
1) Rakeem Cato had a quarter last year pretty much like the one he had Saturday, throwing three picks in the first quarter – and four overall — in a 44-7 loss to Ohio. After that quarter, Cato and Marshall couldn’t recover. Fast forward to the Purdue game, and the Herd nearly erases a four-touchdown deficit in the second half by riding Cato’s arm. You want the No. 1 example of Cato’s growth between last season and this? There it is.
2) Until the defense can put together four full quarters, the offense can’t make a mistake. Coaches want their teams to stay error-free and turnover-free. That’s great. But sometimes it just doesn’t happen. When those mistakes come on offense, the defense needs to bow up. Now there’s nothing it could do with the two pick-sixes, and it did hold Purdue to nine second-half points. But you can’t ignore the 28 points it allowed in the first half. For now, the offense has to remain in the lead for this team.
3) Is it tough for Marshall to see the Herd sitting 120th in scoring defense in the FBS? Sure, but there are plenty of C-USA teams left on the Herd’s schedule suffering the same heartburn. Four of Marshall’s next seven opponents — Southern Miss, Memphis, Houston and UAB — are ranked 100th or worse in scoring defense. So right now, you can’t completely rule out Marshall as a contender in the East Division. That may sound crazy, but Herd fans might get plenty of crazy in Conference USA this season.