Herd Runs Over Knights, 21-7

Marshall played "old-time" football on Wednesday night on ESPN2 in Orlando, Florida, against the Knights of UCF: tough defense and ramming the ball down the throat of your opponent. The Herd ran for 225 yards on the night, the fifth time in 11 games MU has rushed for over 200 yards in a game, and the defense held UCF to only six first downs in a 21-7 win for Marshall. The win clinched the 20th consecutive winning season for a program that went 19 years without a winning season, 1965-83.

During those years, Marshall suffered a 0-26-1 streak of non-winning games (1966-69); the still worst air disaster in American sporting history (75 killed on the Marshall football plane returning from East Carolina on November 14, 1970); the worst decade of football in the NCAA Division I from 1970-79 (23-83, with one a forfeit win); and another 0-26-1 streak of non-winning games in the Southern Conference (from 1977 through November 7, 1981 at Appalachian State). Marshall did not win a conference title between 1937 (Buckeye) and 1988 (SC), a span of 51 years and appeared in one bowl game in school history (1895-1996) on January 1, 1948 until Bob Pruett took the Herd to six consecutive bowls from 1997-2002. The door is still not completely shut on the Herd for a bowl this season.

For all the reasons above, and the 14 seniors who will wear the green and white (celebrating it's 100th year as the MU colors, 1903-2003) for the last time at Marshall University Stadium, Herd fans will be there next Friday at Noon for the final regular season game with the Bobcats of Ohio University. There may still be a chance for a bowl game, especially if Marshall plays against OU like they did UCF on Wednesday. The Knights came into the game with running back Alex Haynes just over 200 yards short of 1,000 yards rushing for the season. He left at the end of the game with just 27 yards on 11 carries as Marshall dominated on defense and the time-of-possesion. The Herd had the ball for 35 minutes, 45 seconds to only 24 minutes and 15 second for UCF.

The Knights had only 59 yards passing on the night. 55 of UCF's 111 yards rushing came on one play, the lone score of the night for the Knights when true freshman quarterback Steven Moffett caught the Herd in a blitz and ran 55 yards for the only score of the evening for the reeling UCF program. UCF has lost 20 players since August, eight of which have been suspended in the last two weeks. The former coach, Mike Kruczek, was fired following the loss (11 days ago) at Eastern Michigan but his replacement, Alan Gooch, had no more luck on the night than any other Knight. The Marshall defense gave up a first down on the Knights' first series, then held UCF to three firsts in the second quarter. UCF would then only gain two more first downs in the entire second half. MU gave up the one score in the fourth quarter but held the Knights to "three downs and out" on four other second half UCF possesions. The Knights' finished the game 2-for-12 on third down conversions and 0-for-2 on fourth down conversions. MU defensive players with tackles-for-loss were defensive tackle Reggie Hayes, defensive end Jonathan Goddard (2), cornerback Roberto Terrell, linebacker J.T. Rembert (2), linebacker Gladstone Coke. UCF QB Steven Moffett, 7-of-13 on the night for 59 yards passing, was sacked twice by defensive end Jamus Martin.

The Marshall offense was effective behind the running of Earl Charles (20-for-101 and one touchdown), Butchie Wallace (11-for-62 and one score) and quarterback Graham Gochneaur. "Goke" rushed 12 times for 72 yards, including a 49-yard "naked bootleg" for a fourth quarter touchdown to ice the game for the Herd. Even with Darius Watts (three catches for 45 yards) still at half speed with the ankle sprain, Gochneaur still hit on 16-of-24 passes for 139 yards and one interception. Jason Schroeder caught three passes for 42 yards and Josh Davis had seven catches for only 28 yards. Under a heavy blitz all evening from UCF, the Herd offensive line would give up only two sacks in the game and dominate the line-of-scrimmage in the second half.

Marshall special teams continued to be uneven on the night and for the season. Ben Lewis had a blocked punt and shanked one punt, plus one blocked field goal attempt, but rebounded for a key punt MU downed at the UCF two-yard line. He would finish the night with five punts for a 28.0 average. On the other hand, Chris Royal set up the Herd's first score with a 70-yard punt return to the UCF seven-yard line. Wallace gave the Herd the lead on the next play and Marshall never looked back. The Herd's punt and kickoff coverage were both well done. UCF had only 15 yards in returns.

The Herd will return to action on Friday, at high noon, November 28 (the day after Thanksgiving) at Marshall Stadium. It will be the 51st renewal of "The Battle For The Bell" when the Ohio Bobcats help Marshall close out the regular season. There is a chance for the Herd to finish the year 8-4, 6-2 in the MAC, good for second in the East Division...then wait to see if the "bowling" will begin.

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