After the first quarter, Marshall appeared headed for a blowout of 1-AA UMass. With a rushing TD by Chanston Rodgers from 14 yards out, a one-handed Darius Watts 15 yard TD grab, and Trod Buggs running through and over UMass defenders on an amazing TD catch-and-run from 25 yards out, the Herd was up 21-7.
Then the second quarter came.
With starting running back Chanston Rodgers sidelined due to a knee injury suffered in the first quarter on a shady knee-capping tackle, Marshall tight end Gregg Kellett lined up in the backfield and bulldozed his way into the end zone on a running play from five yards out. Marshall 28, UMass 7.
"For some reason, people think that when you play 1-AA foes, that they're sorry," said quarterback Byron Leftwich. "There's some good 1-AA teams out there." UMass showed that they belong in the latter category in the second quarter.
Trod Buggs put this one in the endzone on pure willpower.
The Minutemen then went on the offensive, with Omari Howard bursting into the end zone on a one-yard run. Marshall did block the point after. The TD ended an uncommon 17-play series that consumed some 6:49 of game clock. Just 1:55 later, UMass hit paydirt again on a Matt Guice 2-yard run with only 0:03 left in the half.
All of a sudden, the Marshall lead was cut to only 8, at 28-20.
UMass would not score again, as quarterback Byron Leftwich came out firing in the second half. With 10:15 left in the third, Leftwich hit Darius Watts on a 20-yard streak pattern down the left sideline, ending a 5-play 90-yard quick-strike drive. Leftwich followed up that drive with a 6-play, 61-yard drive that only consumed 1:32 of game clock, and ended with Denero Marriott pulling in a 10-yard pass in the middle of the endzone.
The final score of the game came late in the third, when Leftwich went again to Darius Watts from 10 yards out, cementing the final score at 49-20. The fourth quarter saw backup quarterback Stan Hill get some reps, and while Hill did go 0-for-2, he did wow the crowd by picking up a first down on a nice run around left end. Hill ended up with 11 yards on two carries for the evening.
"We've played two halves of football, the first half at Florida and the first half tonight, where we really didn't play well defensively at all," Marshall coach Bob Pruett summed up after the game. "But we've come back and played much better in the second half."
Leftwich finished the game 21-of-30, for 331 yards, 5 TDs, and only one interception. Darius Watts had a huge night, racking up 160 yards and three TDs, Gregg Kellett had two catches for 59 yards and one rushing TD.
The story of the night had to be Marshall running back Trod Buggs. Buggs took the reins after starter Chanston Rodgers went out with a knee injury (severity unknown as of post-game), and ran for 128 yards on 12 carries, with one TD on a catch-and-go.
"He showed he's got some speed, and he can make guys miss," quarterback Byron Leftwich said of Buggs' running display against UMass. "He's an athlete. We told him we were going to give him the rock tonight, just run with it. And, that's what he did."
Marshall finished with 545 yards total offense (331 passing, 214 rushing), compared to the UMass' 355 yards (201 rushing, 154 passing).
Marshall (1-1) now faces Texas Christian next Saturday in Fort Worth, Texas.
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