"We played with great emotion today," said Marshall coach Bob Pruett. "This is more like the way we play."
Pruett was alluding, of course, to Marshall's up-and-down season. The Thundering Herd bumped up to 5-3 overall with the win and 3-1 in MAC action. "We need to quit this yo-yo thing," joked Marshall lineman Nate McPeek.
Western got the jump in the game, utilizing a Kendrick Mosely opening kickoff return to the two yard line to set up Trovon Riley's 2-yard run just moments later. Up 7-0 with barely one minute gone in the game, it would be the Broncos' one and only lead.
Quarterback Stan Hill immediately lobbed a 54-yard pass to Darius Watts, and Butchie Wallace punched it into the end zone just seconds later to tie the game at 7-7. Marshall would go on a tear, racking up 24 unanswered points in the first half en route to a 24-14 halftime lead.
"We didn't give up any sacks, and ran real well in the second half," summed up MU's McPeek.
However, Marshall QB Stan Hill didn't get back up after sprinting to his right with 4:20 left in the second quarter. Hill landed on his left knee -injured earlier this year at Tennessee- and was helped off the field. Graham Gochneaur came on in relief, but couldn't get a drive moving late in the half.
Darius Watts looked for running room at Western Michigan as Josh Davis throws a block. Watts had 9 catches for 170 yards in Marshall's 41-21 win. (Photo by Gary Shook for Herd Insider)
"Stan was going to be out, and that changed our mindset," continued McPeek. "We did it at Manhattan, Kansas and we did it here."
Indeed they did. With Gochnear in at QB, Marshall relied heavily on the run to set up the pass plays in the second half. A 41-yard pass to Darius Watts set up Gochneaur's first TD drive. Josh Davis ran a reverse and waltzed into the end zone with 2:58 left in the third to give Marshall the ahead-for-good 31-14 lead.
Marshall's defense, meanwhile, limited WMU to a three-and-out, and Gochneaur picked up right where he left off. A 24-yard run by Gochneaur on a draw play set up Butchie Wallace's second TD of the day, a 11 yard run with 14:57 left in the game. Luke Salmons and Joey Stepp knocked open a hole big enough for both Wallace and Gochneaur to run through.
Ben Lewis would add a 18 yard field goal later in the game. Western Michigan added a late TD run to cement the final score at 41-21.
Marshall racked up 565 yards of offense in the game. Stan Hill was 14-of-17 for 231 yards and one TD in the first half, while Gochneaur hit 7-of-10 for 95 yards and also ran 7 times for 59 yards in the second half. Darius Watts had the biggest day, hauling in 9 catches for 170 yards and one TD. Davis, oddly enough, scored his only TD on a running play. Earl Charles ran 18 times for 61 yards and one TD, with Wallace adding two more TDs on the ground.
Marshall's defense held Western Michigan to just 202 yards total offense, with 47 coming on the ground and 155 in the air.
Marshall now prepares for the Akron Zips to visit Marshall Stadium next Saturday afternoon.