NGSC Sports

Boca Raton Bowl Preview

Marshall vs Northern Illinois, 6 p.m. eastern on ESPN

On paper, the first annual Boca Raton Bowl couldn’t possibly be a better matchup. The (12-1) Marshall Thundering Herd will be up against the (11-2) Northern Illinois Huskies.  This is the only contest in the 2014 postseason outside of the Rose Bowl and Sugar Bowl that has two outright conference champions playing one another. So the Boca Raton Bowl should make for an exciting game on Tuesday night.

Marshall had one of the best offenses in the country this season as they finished second in the nation in total offense. They also averaged 45.1 points per game, which was the fifth best in the FBS. The Thunder Herd’s offense is led by Miami’s own, Rakeem Cato.

The quarterback threw for 3,622 yards and 37 touchdowns in 2014, Cato attend Miami Central Senior High School, so it is fitting that his final college football game will be amongst his family and friends.

While a lot of analyst credit Cato with the success of the Marshall offense, running back Devon Johnson and receiver Tommy Shuler have also been a big part of their success. Johnson rushed for 1,636 yards and 16 touchdowns in 12 games. Shuler caught 74 balls for 953 yards and recorded eight touchdowns this season.

While the Marshall offense has been one of the best in college football, their defense hasn’t been terrible. The Thunder Herd finished 29th in total defense and is led by linebacker Neville Hewitt (114 tackles, 12 for loss) and lineman Arnold Blackmon (13.5 TFL, eight sacks). Marshall’s defense will have to be solid if they expect to stop the Northern Illinois rushing attack.

Huskies quarterback Drew Hare not only threw for 2,097 yards and 17 touchdowns, he also rushed for 850 yards and eight touchdowns on the season. Hare and running back Cameron Stingily, who rushed for 895 yards and 13 touchdown make up a great tag-team tandem in the Huskies backfield.

Northern Illinois is also pretty solid on defense and it starts with the defensive ends Jason Meehan and Perez Ford.

Meehan is second in the Mid-American Conference in quarterback sacks with seven, while Ford is eighth in the league with five.  Ford also recorded 54 total tackles with nine tackles for loss.

Northern Illinois has won 11 or more games for five consecutive years, but the team comes into the Boca Raton Bowl on a two-game losing streak in bowl games. The Huskies last won a bowl game against Arkansas State in the 2012 Bowl.

With a win, Marshall will finish with 13 wins for the first time since the 1999 season. Back then, they had former NFL quarterback Chad Pennington behind center.


If you love offense, you should turn into this game. While I can’t promise you it will have the excitement of the Miami Beach Bowl, the Boca Raton Bowl should make for an exciting football game.

Northern Illinois is very capable of staying with the Marshall offense, but the Huskies may struggle to keep up with the Thunder Herd offense for four quarters.

Marshall 45, Northern Illinois 38


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