ACC: military bowl 2013

Marshall ended its season on a high note by upending Maryland 31-20 in Friday's Military Bowl presented by Northrop Grumman. The victory clinched the Herd's first 10-win season in more than a decade.

Here's how it went down:

It was over when: Marshall completed a 28-yard pass on third-and-11 with about four minutes left in the game. The Herd were just out of field goal range before the play, with the ball at the Terps' 36, and that completion effectively put the game away. TE Gator Hoskins grabbed the catch near the first-down marker and rumbled for about another 14 yards. He caught a touchdown pass on the next play. That put Marshall up 31-20 with 3:42 left to play.

Game ball goes to: Marshall QB Rakeem Cato. If Marshall was going to win, it was going to be with the arm of Cato. Coach Doc Holliday chose to pass nine more times than his team rushed, and Cato finished 28-of-44 for 337 yards, three TDs and no interceptions. Cato came up big when needed, converting 4 of 6 third downs in the final quarter, including two third-and-long plays on touchdown drives.

Stat of the game: Maryland's average starting field position on its first 11 drives was its own 16. The Terps constantly had to drive a long field to get any points, as they didn't start a single drive past their own 28 until drive No. 12 -- when the game was already out of reach, and only after an excessive celebration by Marshall led to a 15-yard penalty. The Terps started within their own 5 on three occasions.

Unsung hero of the game: Marshall punter Tyler Williams. The Herd won the field-position battle in a big way, thanks in big part to Williams. Three of his first five five punts landed inside the 5 -- four of his seven were downed inside the 10 -- and another bounced at the 1 before a teammate carried it into the end zone. Holliday stayed conservative on fourth down, but it paid off.

What we learned: This win solidified the fact that Marshall is more than capable of playing with BCS-level opponents -- and that it will be a team to watch out for next season. Cato entered the bowl game as one of the better-kept secrets in the FBS, but with a national TV audience watching, that might not be the case anymore. He likely will surpass Chad Pennington's school record for career passing touchdowns (115) next season, and he's definitely a quarterback to keep an eye on.

To watch the trophy presentation of the Military Bowl, click here.

Military Bowl preview

December, 27, 2013
Maryland is hoping it goes out with a win against Marshall in its final game representing the ACC, but the Thundering Herd won't be a pushover in the Military Bowl presented by Northrop Grumman.

The two teams face each other at 2:30 p.m. ET on Friday (ESPN). Here's a quick preview:

Who to watch: The quarterbacks. Marshall's 6-foot signal-caller, Rakeem Cato, is one of the better-kept secrets in the FBS. He has passed for 3,579 yards this season, in addition to 36 TDs and nine interceptions. He's a junior, but he has already solidified his status as one of the better quarterbacks in school history. He's third in career passing touchdowns (88) for the Thundering Herd and sits behind two other Marshall QBs whom you might recognize: former NFL players Byron Leftwich and Chad Pennington. Maryland isn't too bad at this position, either. C.J. Brown's numbers haven't been nearly as eye-popping, but the dual-threat QB has struggled with injuries throughout the season -- and he's finally healthy. He was instrumental in late-season wins against Virginia Tech and NC State, and he punished teams on the ground and through the air. He threw for 2,045 yards and 11 touchdowns and rushed for 538 yards and 12 TDs.

What to watch: Marshall's offense vs. Maryland's defense in the red zone. The Terps' secondary should have its hands full with the Thundering Herd already, but the red zone presents a whole new set of problems. Doc Holliday's offense has been incredibly balanced inside the 20-yard line, as it has ended up with 26 rushing TDs to 22 passing TDs. Marshall is seventh in the nation in red-zone offense by scoring on 91.8 percent of its trips. Maryland's defense, on the other hand? Well, this could end up being quite the mismatch. The Terrapins haven't fared well at all by ranking 111th in red-zone defense. They've allowed scores on 89.6 percent of their opponents' drives inside the 20. Marshall is a high-scoring offense and can win in a shootout. If Maryland struggles in this area, it might not be able to catch up.

Why to watch: Well, it's either watch this football game or no football game at all. This will be the only televised game for three-and-a-half hours, so that's a pretty big selling point. The matchup itself isn't the most intriguing -- Mark Schlabach ranked it No. 31 out of 35, in terms of interesting bowl games -- but Maryland is still looking to end its final game as a member of the ACC on a high note. Third-year Maryland head coach Randy Edsall hasn't yet won a bowl game, while Marshall is trying to prove it can play with teams from the AQ conferences. Plus, the game is about only a 30-minute drive from Maryland's campus, so it'll be interesting to see how well the fans travel. It should be a nice sneak peek for Big Ten fans for what they can expect.

Prediction: Marshall 38, Maryland 34

Military Bowl

December, 8, 2013

Marshall Thundering Herd (9-4) vs. Maryland Terrapins (7-5)

Dec. 27, 2:30 p.m. ET, Annapolis, Md. (ESPN)

[+] EnlargeRakeem Cato
Leslie Plaza Johnson/Icon SMIRakeem Cato powers Marshall's high-octane offense.
The Thundering Herd rode an impressive five-game winning streak into the Conference USA championship game, where they lost 41-24 to Rice. Nonetheless, Marshall averaged 53.8 points per game during that streak to end the regular season, showing off an explosive offense that should make for an entertaining bowl appearance.

Led by quarterback Rakeem Cato (3,579 passing yards, 36 touchdowns, nine interceptions), Marshall boasts one of the most explosive offenses in the country. The Thundering Herd are seventh nationally in scoring (43 PPG) and 12th in total offense (502.3 YPG), showing off balance between run (211.2 YPG, 22nd nationally) and pass (291.2, 21st).

Oddly enough, Marshall and Maryland have produced similar results against common opponents. Maryland beat Virginia Tech 27-24 in overtime, while Marshall fell 29-21 against the Hokies in three overtimes. Similarly, Maryland beat Florida International 43-10, while Marshall was a 48-10 winner against FIU. -- David Ching


The list of injuries for Randy Edsall’s crew in the past two seasons is long and gruesome. But while the 2012 season was sunk when too much star power was relegated to the sideline, this season’s team managed to overcome.

[+] EnlargeC.J. Brown
AP Photo/Patrick SemanskyC.J. Brown has accounted for 23 total touchdowns (11 passing 12, rushing) for Maryland.
The season started in grand fashion with four straight wins and an appearance in the AP Top 25 before the Terrapins ran into the buzz saw that was Florida State. Maryland was crushed 63-0 and left Tallahassee bruised and battered.

In the next four weeks, it lost three more games, as quarterback C.J. Brown battled injuries and star receiver Stefon Diggs was lost for the year.

But with its bowl hopes suddenly dimmed, Edsall’s group rebounded to win two of its final three, including a 41-21 drubbing of NC State in the program’s final ACC game.

The difference between this season’s seven-win team and last season’s four-win disaster was mostly Brown. Maryland cycled through five different quarterbacks in 2012, resorting, finally, to a converted linebacker to lead the offense. In 2013, Brown provided a far more appealing option, accounting for 23 touchdowns -- just five fewer than the Terps scored as a team in 2012.

Maryland’s 7-5 finish fell short of the high expectations its 4-0 start suggested, but the Terps still won one more game than Edsall did in his first two seasons as coach, and they’re playing a bowl game for the first time since 2010.

As Maryland prepares for a move to the Big Ten in 2014, that’s big progress. -- David Hale