Huntington, W.Va. - Eddie Sullivan rushed for two touchdowns and threw for a third on Saturday evening as Western Carolina dropped a 52-24 decision to Marshall at Joan C. Edwards Stadium. The Thundering Herd scored 21 points in both the second and third quarters to post their fifth-straight victory in the all-time series, the first since 1996.
"We played a good football team tonight in Marshall. We knew it was going to be tough coming in here with them coming off a tough loss to an in-state rival," said WCU coach Mark Speir during his post-game press conference. "I was proud of our guys. I thought they played hard. Too many times we shot ourselves in the foot. We dropped more balls than we did in the preseason and the spring. We just had to execute better, but I'm proud of our guys' effort."
Making his first start for the purple & gold, Sullivan completed 19-of-40 passes for 191 yards while also pacing five backs with 10 carries for 50 yards, twice finding the end zone against his former team. A native of Boca Raton, Fla., Sullivan found seven different receivers with senior Jacoby Mitchell pulling down a career-best nine catches for 84 yards and a five-yard scoring strike to lead the way.
Western Carolina (1-1) slowed the Thundering Herd in the first quarter, limiting the potent Marshall offense to two field goal attempts, only one of which was successful. The Thundering Herd chewed up 10 minutes of the first quarter clock with 186 yards of offense including 145 through the air, but led by just three points midway through the first half.
However, the Herd rumbled for three second quarter touchdowns to extend its lead to 24-0 with just under three minutes to play before halftime. Marshall quarterback Rakeen Cato capped scoring drives of 11 and two of nine plays apiece with touchdown passes of one, two and 12 yards, respectively.
Cato completed 32-of-42 passes for 377 yards and those three touchdowns before giving way to reserve signal caller Blake Frohnapfel who was 4-for-4 with a TD pass to his brother, Eric, in the fourth quarter. The duo of Cato and Frohnapfel spread the ball around to 12 different receivers with Aaron Dobson leading the Herd with nine catches for 81 yards and a touchdown with Demetrius Evans and Gator Hoskins also hauling in TD passes.
WCU was able to light the scoreboard as time expired in the first half as sophomore kicker Richard Sigmon polished off a nine-play, 52-yard drive for the Catamounts with a career-long 40-yard field goal, splitting the uprights and sending the teams to the break at 24-3.
On its second possession of the third quarter, Western Carolina was able to find pay-dirt. The Catamounts moved 53 yards in seven plays, spurred by a 36-yard reception by senior Conner Orr for his first career catch. The drive was capped by a five-yard strike from Sullivan to Mitchell, closing the margin back to 14 at 24-10.
The momentum swing was short-lived, though, as Marshall responded with 21-straight points following the Catamount score to claim a 35-point cushion, 45-10. The Thundering Herd went to the ground with Steward Butler rushing in from eight yards out and Remi Watson scoring on a three-yard run to make it 38-10.
The 21-point swing was capped by Devin Arrington who corralled an overthrown screen pass attempt by Sullivan, picking off the errant throw and bouncing into the end zone from 18 yards out. It was the first turnover for the Catamounts on the season.
WCU outscored Marshall 14-7 in the fourth quarter as Sullivan recorded scoring runs of one and eight yards, capping WCU scoring drives of 16 and 11 plays, respectively.
Junior linebacker Courtland Carson led the Catamount defensive attack with a career-high 14 tackles while freshman Sertonuse Harris - making his first collegiate start - tallied a career-best 11 stops including three solo tackles. Freshman Caleb Hawkins posted four tackles including his first career quarterback sack. Marshall's Evan McKelvey led the Herd with 10 tackles including 1.5 for loss.
Western Carolina opens Southern Conference play next Saturday, Sept. 15 as it travels to Spartanburg, S.C., to face the No. 10/13 Wofford Terriers. Kickoff from Gibbs Stadium is scheduled for 7:00 pm.