Marshall Runs Over Akron, 42-24

Last year, it was a night when the Herd put the ball on the ground nine times and lost five fumbles and seven turnovers in a 34-20 Akron win, knocking Marshall from the Top 25 and injuring Byron Leftwich. This year in Huntington, it was total domination by a Thundering Herd team bent on returning to the MAC Championship again and win number four in the seven game playoff came against Akron, 42-24, on a night that saw MU set a Marshall Stadium rushing record with 374 yards on the ground.

Senior running back Franklin "Butchie" Wallace, who had three fumbles in the 2002 game, made up for that effort with a 147 yards rushing effort. Wallace rushed for 74 yards on his first four carries, including a go-ahead, 36-yard touchdown in the first quarter that gave MU (6-3 overall, 4-1 MAC) a 14-7 lead in the game.

Wallace teamed with junior Earl Charles, who rushed for 121 yards and three scores, to become only the 10th pair of backs in Marshall history to both rush for over 100 yards in a game. It was MU's first 300-plus yard rushing game since the SEMO game in 2000, it was the most yards rushed for by a Herd team since MU rushed for 388 against ETSU in 1995f and the rushing total of 374 broke the stadium rushing record set by Youngstown State in 2001. Marshall's former best at the stadium was 340 yards against Eastern Illinois in 1992.

Graham Gochneaur added 52 yards rushing himself and Tank Tunstalle had 47 on 10 fourth quarter carries. Gochneaur, in his fourth-ever start at Marshall, passed 25 times and completed 15 for 199 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions. Both picks were by Akron defensive back Ricky McKenzie, who for the second year in a row returns a MU interception for a score.

Jason Schoeder led the Herd in receiving with a career-best five catches for 98 yards and his second touchdown of the year. Darius Watts caught four passes for 51 yards and scored a touchdown for the ninth game in a row. He trails the all-time NCAA mark of 50 touchdown catches in a career by five with 45 since 2000.

As impressive as the Marshall offense was, the MU defense held one of the Mid-American Conference's most prolific offenses to only two touchdowns and 13 points under their average of 37 points per game. Charlie Frye, who came in averaging 312 yards of total offense per game for Akron(third best in the MAC) was held to 210 yards passing and 239 yards of total offense.

Marshall allowed an Akron (5-5, 3-3 MAC) team averaging 474 yards per game to only gain 391 yards on the night and only 108 yards total in the second half of the game. The Zips scored only once in the second half, coming with five minutes to play and the game in the hands of the Herd.

Marshall was led by Gladstone Coke, who had two interceptions for the Herd, returning those picks for 51 yards, three solos and five total stops. Dionte Wilson chipped in four solo tackles and four assists and safety Curtis Keyes had three solos, four assista and three passes-broken-up. Marshall cornerback Willie Smith also broke up three passes and defensive end Jamus Martin recorded the only sack of Frye on the night although the Herd defensive line hurried and hit the supposedly injured Akron quarterback all evening.

Marshall will have 10 days to get ready for its next contest, a Wednesday night meeting with the Miami RedHawks on September 12 that will be televised nationally on ESPN. Miami has an ESPN2 game this Tuesday with Western Division leader Bowling Green before turning their attention to Marshall. That game may decide the East Division Champion, won every year in its existance (1997) by Marshall. Akron will travel to Central Michigan before finishing up at home against Ohio University on November 15.


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