Marshall blows out Northern Illinois in Boca Raton Bowl

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Marshall staked its claim to being the best non-Power Five conference team in the country with the offensive display it put up against Northern Illinois in Tuesday's Boca Raton Bowl.

The Thundering Herd rolled up 505 total yards against NIU en route to a 52-23 win and a 13-1 record.

The most potent part of the Marshall offense was, unsurprisingly, the connection between quarterback Rakeem Cato and wide receiver Tommy Shuler as both got to finish their college careers in a way that's a dream for many players.

The two grew up in Miami and went to Miami Central High School, not too far away from the site of Tuesday's game. They won a state championship there – the school's first – and in a homecoming of sorts, Cato finished 25-37 for 281 yards and three touchdowns.

18 of those completions were to Shuler, who had 185 yards receiving and a touchdown.

The touchdown passes also meant Cato finished his college career on a streak of 46 straight games with a touchdown pass. It ties an all-level NCAA record with Central Washington's Mike Reilly. Central Washington is a Division II school. The last time Cato didn't throw a touchdown pass was on Oct. 15, 2011 against Rice.

He also scored twice via short runs in the red zone too. With five scores, Cato finishes 2014 with 48 total touchdowns.

If it wasn't for a 67-66 overtime loss to Western Kentucky in the final week of the regular season, the Herd could be in Arizona, playing for the Fiesta Bowl. But the game against the Hilltoppers was an amalgamation of turnovers and weak defense. And when combined with a porous schedule thanks to the (lack of) strength of Conference USA, Marshall was left outside of the New Year's Bowls while Boise State went to Glendale.

On Tuesday, Marshall's defense gave up a bunch of yards too. The Huskies had 425 yards of offense but did a terrible job of converting the yards to points. Three drives of 59 yards or longer ended in field goal attempts. After Devon Johnson put Marshall up 24-10 in the second quarter, the game was never closer than two possessions the entire way.

Sure, bowl games can be misleading. It's an annual tradition to put way too much stock in them. But with a performance over a very good non-Power Five conference champion and a 13-1 record, Marshall will have the opportunity to claim best of the rest status if Boise State loses to Arizona on December 31. And not many people would stop them.

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Nick Bromberg is the assistant editor of Dr. Saturday on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at or follow him on Twitter!