WKU outscores Marshall 67-66 in OT
Rakeem Cato blamed himself.
Cato threw a school-record seven touchdown passes but also had four interceptions in No. 19 Marshall’s 67-66 overtime loss to Western Kentucky on Friday. All four of the picks led to Western Kentucky touchdowns.
Marshall had to come from 21 points down to send the game into overtime, only to fall a bit short.
Three of Cato’s interceptions were made by Branden Leston in the first half.
“I can’t throw four interceptions and spot a team 21 points,” Cato said. “It can’t happen. It’s as simple as that. Everything that happened today falls on me. We lost today because of me.”
Marshall’s defense will shoulder much of the blame, too. Conference USA’s best defense allowed a school-record 738 yards.
“We didn’t do anything defensively we hadn’t done all year,” Marshall coach Doc Holliday said. “They made plays and we didn’t, and at the end of the day it got us.”
It all came down to Western Kentucky coach Jeff Brohm choosing to go for a 2-point conversion after Brandon Doughty threw his Conference USA-record eighth touchdown pass, a 25-yarder to Jared Dangerfield in overtime. Doughty then threw the winning conversion pass to Willie McNeal.
“I knew we had to go for it or the game would keep going on,” Brohm said. “We said right after regulation if we score, we’re going to go for two. We did and it was a huge play by Brandon and Willie.”
It capped a dizzying contest that broke numerous records and ended likely Marshall’s chance to play in a marquee New Year’s bowl.
Among the records that went down: the 15 combined TD passes were the most in a game involving an FBS team.
Houston and Eastern Washington combined for 14 in 1990, and the record for two FBS teams was 13 accomplished four times.
Western Kentucky (7-5, 4-4) foiled Marshall’s bid for the fourth perfect season in school history. The teams tied the Bowl Subdivision record for the most combined points scored in a game involving a ranked team, set when West Virginia beat Baylor 70-63 in 2012. It was the highest-scoring game in Conference USA history, eclipsing East Carolina’s 65-59 win over Marshall in double overtime in 2012.
Marshall (11-1, 7-1) saw its 13-game home winning streak snapped.
The College Football Playoff committee will pick one team from outside the five major conferences for one guaranteed spot in either the Fiesta, Cotton or Peach bowls. Marshall was 24th in the CFP this week, one place behind Boise State, which plays Utah State on Saturday.
“It’s a shock,” said Marshall tight end Eric Frohnapfel. “That was sort of the look on everyone’s face. It’s frustrating and people are angry.”
Marshall already has qualified for next week’s conference championship and will meet the winner of Saturday’s game between Rice and Louisiana Tech.
Doughty increased his FBS-leading TD pass total to 44.
“It’s just a confidence booster,” Doughty said. “I’m trying to compete with myself. They made a couple of comments before the game that shook me the wrong way and it motivated me to put up a big performance.”
Doughty broke the previous conference record of six TD passes set on eight occasions. He finished 34 of 50 for 491 yards. Leon Allen ran for 237 yards and two scores.
Cato finished 29 of 46 for 417 yards. His seven TDs broke the mark of six shared by Chad Pennington and Byron Leftwich. He also broke Pennington’s school record for career passing yards.
Marshall scored the final 10 points of regulation, including Cato’s 5-yard scoring pass to Frohnapfel with 39 seconds left in the fourth that tied it at 59-59.
In overtime, Cato threw a 25-yard scoring pass to Hyleck Foster to give Marshall its first lead.
On Western Kentucky’s overtime possession, Doughty found Jared Dangerfield in the back of the end zone from 25 yards out. After Marshall called timeout, Doughty threw to a wide-open McNeal in the end zone for the win.
Marshall’s Steward Butler ran for 233 yards and two scores after starter Devon Johnson left the game with an injury in the second quarter.
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