Rakeem Cato passed 5 yards to Deon-Tay McManus with 1:50 remaining to lift Marshall over Louisiana Tech 26-23 on Saturday for the Thundering Herd's first Conference-USA championship.
Cato rolled out to his right and hit McManus in the back corner of the end zone to give Marshall its first lead of the game. On the first play after the ensuing kickoff, Neville Hewitt intercepted Cody Sokol and Marshall ran out the clock.
McManus also caught Cato's other touchdown pass in the second quarter and Justin Haig kicked four field goals for Marshall (12-1), which lost to Rice 41-24 in last year's title game.
Cato completed 25 of 46 passes for 308 yards with an interception.
Kenneth Dixon ran for 156 yards on 20 carries and three touchdowns for the Bulldogs (8-5), who had six players, including five starters, ruled academically ineligible for the game.