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Marshall solid despite 51-41 loss to Purdue

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Marshall is getting accustomed to all those gaudy offensive numbers.

It just wants more wins.

On a day Rakeem Cato threw for five touchdowns and 439 yards, it was his three interceptions — all of which led to Purdue touchdowns — that cost Marshall in a 51-41 loss at Purdue.

"We wanted a 'W'," Cato said Saturday. "We didn't win, so the stats don't matter to us. We just need to keep going forward."

That's certainly the plan now that Marshall (2-3) can focus more clearly on Conference USA opponents.

Not everything went awry for the Thundering Herd.

Cato finished 45 of 68, breaking both records for a Purdue opponent. Illinois quarterback Jack Trudeau set the previous marks when he went 39 of 66 on Oct. 12, 1985.

Receiver Tommy Shuler caught 19 passes for 200 yards, breaking the single-game school record for receptions (15) that was matched most recently by Josh Davis in 2004, and Gator Hoskins caught four passes for 42 yards — three going for touchdowns.

But it was little consolation for a team looking to make a statement and re-emerge on the national scene with a win over a BCS-conference opponent.

"We made too many mistakes," Hoskins said.

Purdue (3-1) made them pay for the miscues, too.

Caleb TerBush threw four touchdown passes, Purdue returned two interceptions for scores and the Boilermakers recovered Cato's fumble in the final minute to finally seal the win.

The Boilermakers needed every big play they could get, and it was, surprisingly, the defense that proved the difference.

"I told the defensive backs that we were getting jealous over there and they should probably stop on the 1-yard line or something so we could get a touchdown," TerBush joked after the game. "But it was awesome. It was a big change of momentum there, and they made good plays."

Fans appeared poised for an early postgame celebration when Purdue picked off three passes in nine plays during the second quarter, turning each into touchdowns as they built a 42-14 lead.

Early in the fourth quarter, they were gasping as Marshall trimmed Purdue's four-touchdown lead to 45-35, and they couldn't relax again until Marshall lost a fumble in the final minute.

On the field, the scene was just as remarkable.

Marshall coach Doc Holliday left the field with a gash on his face, unwilling to say what happened, as the teams combined for 977 yards and ran so many plays (181) that a postgame recount showed two more than the previous announcement at game's end.

TerBush finished 27 of 37 for 294 yards with four TDs, three to Gary Bush, and one interception — mediocre numbers on this day.

The game turned on a nine-play flurry in the second quarter, starting with Antoine Lewis' interception. Five plays later, TerBush hooked up with Bush for a 35-yard score to make it 21-14.

Three plays after that, Ricardo Allen stepped in front of a Marshall receiver, caught the ball and sprinted 39 yards down the left side of the field. It was his fourth career TD off of an interception, breaking the school record that he previously shared with Mike Rose and Rod Woodson.

On the ensuing series, Josh Johnson jumped the route, caught Cato's throw in stride and was so far ahead of anyone else on the field that nobody chased him on the 76-yard return. It marked the first time in school history that Purdue scored twice on interception returns in the same game.

"Anytime you have two pick-sixes in the first half and have that type of cushion at halftime, I think that's huge for your football team," coach Danny Hope said.

Marshall fought valiantly to get close.

Cato opened the second half with a 28-yard TD pass to Hoskins to make it 42-21, and after Derek Mitchell returned a blocked punt 35 yards for a score, Marshall was within 42-28.

Purdue answered with a 34-yard field goal, but Cato delivered with a 1-yard TD pass to Hoskins to get Marshall back into the game at 45-35 with 12:53 to go.

TerBush responded by settling down the Boilermakers offense and leading them on a methodical drive that ended with a 7-yard TD pass to Bush, making it 51-35. Bush had seven catches for 83 yards.

"I was just in the right place at the right time," Bush said. "Some games you don't get the ball that much, some games you do. Today was my lucky day."

Marshall, the nation's No. 1 passing team, refused to go away.

Cato's 15-yard TD pass to Craig Wilkins with 3:47 left made it 51-41.

It just wasn't enough.

"We challenged ourselves at the half and wanted to make a statement," Marshall defensive lineman Marques Aiken said. "The score showed you can't let a team like that get to you. All we can do is show up at practice this week, work hard and come back next week."