Courtesy StPetersburgBowl.com and CFP Staff
December 20, 2011
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – Wide receiver Aaron Dobson was named Marshall’s MVP as he scored a pair of touchdowns to lead the Thundering Herd to a 20-10 win over Florida International in the Beef ‘O’Brady’s Bowl on Tuesday night at Tropicana Field. Conference USA’s first win in the event’s history was seen by 20,072 fans and a national television audience on ESPN.
T.Y. Hilton was named FIU’s MVP as the senior caught a game record eight passes for 88 yards, accumulating a total of 147 all-purpose yards, in his final appearance for the Golden Panthers. True freshman signal caller Rakeem Cato was strong in his postseason debut for the Thundering Herd, completing 27-of-39 passes for 226 yards with two touchdowns and an interception.
Defensive stars included Jordan Hunt with 13 tackles, all solo, including two for a loss and a sack and Marshall’s Tyson Gale who made 10 stops, 2.5 of them for a loss with a sack.
After a pair of fruitless possessions, Marshall would open the scoring on the game’s third possession, marching 45 yards in 10 plays for a 37-yard Tyler Warner field goal. The drive was keyed by a remarkable 25-yard completion from Cato to Jermaine Kelson who caught the 3rd-and-8 pass one handed, while being interfered with.
The next two scores would both be by the Golden Panthers. FIU broke into the point column with 1:31 left in the first quarter when Hilton zipped to the end zone on an end around that capped an 8-play, 47-yard march to pay dirt. FIU extended its lead to seven points at 10-3 midway through the second quarter when Jack Griffin sent a Beef ‘O’Brady’s Bowl record 46-yard field goal through the uprights.
Just 23 seconds before halftime, Marshall knotted the game at 10-10 when Aaron Dobson made a tremendous over-the-shoulder catch in the end zone on a 31-yard fade pass from Cato.
The two defenses began to assert themselves in a third quarter where the sides combined for a total of just 106 yards of offense. While the defenses held each offense at bay it would be a special teams play that changed the complexion of the game.
A Darryl Roberts sack on third down forced the Golden Panthers to punt from their own 22 yard line midway through the fourth quarter. Zach Dunston snuck in off of the edge and met Jermaine Kelson at punter Josh Brisk’s feet, blocking the kick. Billy Mitchell gathered the loose ball and advanced it to the eight yard line where officials ruled that he fumbled it forwards into the end zone where the Herd recovered. The apparent touchdown came off the score board but the momentum generated remained.
FIU’s defense held but Warner’s 39-yard field goal with 5:16 to play would prove to be the game-winning score.
"It's been a strength of ours all season long," Marshall head coach Doc Holliday said. "We weren't getting anything done offensively and we had to create something. We blocked six punts in our six wins this season. We have been able to win the close games this year."
Hilton fumbled the ball on the ensuing possession after catching a pass and Marshall consumed the majority of the remaining game clock from there, sealing victory on a 35-yard touchdown pass to Dobson on a fourth down play with 30 seconds left in the game.
- Game MVP'ss were Marshall wide receiver Aaron Dobson with seven catches for 81 yards and two touchdowns and FIU wide receiver T.Y. Hilton with eight catches for 88 receiving yards and 147 all-purpose yards.
- Marshall records Conference USA’s first victory in the Beef ‘O’Brady’s Bowl.
- FIU’s 10 points are the fewest scored in a Beef ‘O’Brady’s Bowl.
- Record Beef ‘O’Brady’s Bowl lows by FIU include passing yards (159), rushing attempts (27), first downs (12), third down conversion percentage (4-for-15), third down conversions (4) and most punts (9).
- Record Beef ‘O’Brady’s Bowl highs by Marshall include passing attempts (39), completions (27), completion percentage (69).
- The teams combined for a Beef ‘O’Brady’s Bowl record 16 punts.
Beef ‘O’Brady’s Bowl individual records:
- Marshall quarterback Rakeem Cato had 27 completions and 39 attempts
- FIU receiver T.Y. Hilton had eight receptions
- Marshall’s Andre Booker had three marks with four punt returns for 58 yards with a long of 39
- Marshall’s Tyler Warner tied the field goal mark with two
- FIU’s Jack Griffin had the longest field goal, making one from 46 yards out.
- FIU’s Josh Brisk had eight punts.
Former Marshall quarterback Chad Pennington was on the Herd's sidelines for the game.
The game was often chippy as Marshall has over 30 players from Florida on its roster and FIU is made up almost entirely of homegrown prospects. A brawl nearly broke out at the end as several players exchanged words and shoves and Marshall players began jumping up and down, taunting and wolfing, but cooler heads ultimately prevailed.
Marshall improved to 7-2 all-time in bowl games while FIU dropped to 1-1.
It may have been Mario Cristobal's last game as head coach at FIU as he is rumored to be the front-runner to fill the vacancy at Pittsburgh.
77.3% of CollegeFootballPoll.com voters picked FIU to win and the Congrove Computer Rankings projected the Golden Panthers as a 5.61-point favorite.