BLACKSBURG — Marshall has an upset on its mind after 30 minutes at Lane Stadium.
The Thundering Herd got three touchdowns from quarterback Rakeem Cato — two passing, one rushing — to take a 21-14 lead into halftime against Virginia Tech.
Cato has thrown for 98 yards, but it’s Marshall’s ground game that has flummoxed the Hokies. The Herd ran for 107 yards in the first half, getting 71 from tailback Essray Taliaferro.
The Hokies have struggled offensively. Quarterback Logan Thomas was sharp on one drive but finished the half 6-for-17 for 80 yards, with two interceptions. His misfired on his last eight passes.
Virginia Tech revived “Beamer Ball” to get on the board early, getting a blocked punt by Kyle Fuller on Marshall’s first drive. Derek DiNardo scooped it up and went 11 yards for a touchdown. Ethan Keyserling, who filled in for an absent Cody Journell, made the extra point to make it 7-0.
It was the Hokies’ first blocked punt against a Football Bowl Subdivision team since Davon Morgan got to one in the Boise State opener in 2010.
Marshall answered with a 12-yard touchdown pass from Cato to Devon Smith on a third-down play near the goal line, tying things at 7 midway through the first.
The Hokies got their offense in gear on the following drive, going 89 yards for a touchdown. Thomas went 4-for-5 for 61 yards with a pair of third-down completions. He powered his way in on a 2-yard touchdown run to put Tech up 14-7.
Two facemask penalties gave Marshall 30 yards on its next drive, setting up a Cato touchdown scramble from 4 yards out to tie the game 14.
The Herd continued to move the ball at will against the Hokies’ defense, gashing them on the ground with a pair of long runs by Taliaferro. Cato hit Gator Hoskins across the middle for a 13-yard touchdown to give Marshall its first lead at 21-14.
Tech had a chance at a field goal before halftime, but Keyserling his the left upright on a 36-yard attempt.
Virginia Tech had no explanation for Journell’s absence, saying Frank Beamer would comment after the game.