Marshall (5-6, 4-3 C-USA) at East Carolina (7-4, 6-1 C-USA)

Football preview: Marshall at East Carolina

November 23, 2012 

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PITTSBURGH, PA - SEPTEMBER 01: Rakeem Cato #12 of the Marshall Thundering Herd drops back to pass against the West Virginia Mountaineers during the game on September 1, 2012 at Mountaineer Field in Morgantown, West Virginia. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

JUSTIN K. ALLER — Getty

  • More information Quote of the week “Every time they play a passing team they like to drop eight, so you never know. … We’re used to it. (Houston) did it last game and I had a trick for them that game. We have a couple tricks up our sleeve that we’ve got planned if a team wants to drop eight.” Marshall QB Cato on the ECU defense Brian Haines

Marshall (5-6, 4-3 C-USA) at East Carolina (7-4, 6-1 C-USA), 2 p.m.

Keep an eye on

Sophomore quarterback Rakeem Cato

The Marshall offense begins and ends with Cato, who currently is tops in the FBS in passing yards (3,883) and fifth in TD passes (32).

The 6-0, 182-pound Miami native is having a season for the ages, as he has completed an astounding 68 percent of his passes en route to a school-record 375 completions, which also leads all Division I players.

Thanks to Cato, the Marshall offense has converted 53.9 percent of its third downs, which also is No. 1 in the FBS, and is posting 39.27 points per game.

Key matchup

ECU secondary vs. Marshall WR Tommy Shuler

Standing at only 5-8, 187 pounds, Shuler has posed a huge threat to opposing defenses. The sure-handed Shuler’s 96 receptions stand third in the FBS, and he will clash with an inconsistent Pirates’ secondary that ranks 10th in the league in pass defense, allowing 258.3 yards per outing.

Key mismatch

ECU tackles vs. Marshall defensive ends

Marshall has been giving up 41.1 points per game and its defense against the run has been a major issue. The Thundering Herd has allowed 211 rushing yards per game this season, which is something ECU will look to exploit with leading rusher Vintavious Cooper.

The Pirates hold a considerable size advantage on the edge, where tackles Adhem Elsawi (6-5, 315) and Robert Jones (6-3, 309) will battle DEs Jeremiah Taylor (6-4, 259) and Alex Bazzie (6-2, 225).

Stat that matters

18 Marshall has had 18 different players reach the end zone this season, which is tied for first in the nation with Navy and Colorado.

Pulse check

East Carolina junior strong safety Chip Thompson, who has started 10 games this year, is questionable for Friday after sustaining a concussion during last week’s win against Tulane. Marshall senior WR Aaron Dobson, whom Pirates’ fans will remember for making a tremendous one-handed touchdown reception in last year’s regular-season finale, has missed the past two games with a knee injury but was listed at the top of the Herd’s depth chart this week.

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