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Marshall-FIU Preview

Marshall’s Rakeem Cato finds himself in the company of Super Bowl-winning quarterback Russell Wilson. On Saturday night, he could be in a class of his own.

Cato will try to surpass Wilson for sole possession of the NCAA record for consecutive games with a touchdown pass when the No. 25 Thundering Herd visit FIU.

Cato threw for 337 yards and three scores in last week’s 49-24 victory over Middle Tennessee, giving him 38 straight games with a TD pass. That tied him with Wilson, who accomplished the feat from 2009-11 with North Carolina State and Wisconsin.

The senior threw four touchdowns at FIU on Nov. 23 in a 48-10 victory.

“It’s not just me,” Cato said. “Look at my offensive line. They do a heck of a job, improving every day, getting better. The will on our offensive side of the ball, all the guys, thanks to them.

“Without those guys, there’s no consecutive touchdown passes thrown.”

The Thundering Herd (6-0, 2-0 Conference USA) moved into the Top 25 for the first time this season after last week’s win. They are the only FBS team to score at least 40 points in each game this season, with their average of 47.8 ranking second behind No. 4 Baylor (52.7).

Marshall has excelled defensively as well, allowing 13 touchdowns from scrimmage – 13th fewest in the country. It’s also giving up 328.2 yards per game for the 25th-best mark.

“Those guys are playing extremely well,” coach Doc Holliday said of his defense. “They are well coached; they tackle well. They are athletic and can run. … We had some injuries, and we had some other guys step up. That is what good football teams do.”

The Thundering Herd haven’t started 7-0 since 1999, when they went 13-0 for the season.

“This football team is a special bunch,” Holliday said. “These kids like each other. They are fun to be around. They care about each other. That is why we are good.”

Marshall will be facing an FIU team that appears improved from the squad that went 1-11 last season. The Golden Panthers (3-4, 2-1) are giving up 142.7 yards per game on the ground, down from 205.4 in 2013.

Still, coach Ron Turner is not entirely pleased with the effort of his young team.

“We’ve got to learn how to prepare in all areas, each week,” Turner told the school’s official website. “We’ve got to learn how to play with that chip, that edge. (If) we get it back, we can be a good football team, win a lot of games. If we don’t, we’re not. We’re not good enough just to go out there and play. We’ve got to prepare and play as well as we’re capable.”

The Golden Panthers failed to win a third straight last week, falling 16-13 to UTSA on a field goal with 50 seconds remaining. FIU committed five turnovers.

Cato has thrown for 467 yards, six touchdowns and one interception in his two games against the Golden Panthers.

Marshall’s Devon Johnson is averaging 135.7 rushing yards – eighth in the FBS – with 11 touchdowns.

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