It was the Herd that came out firing, but the Zips returned that fire in a shootout of a second half. Marshall took the early lead on a Curtis Head 32-yard field goal with 13:00 left in the first quarter, 3-0. More than 10 minutes later, Darius Watts caught an out pass from Byron Leftwich and took off. 61 yards later, Watts had his first score of the night (he would finish with two), and Marshall was up 10-0.
Both the Herd and the Zips would score twice in the second quarter. Akron's Charlie Frye ran around right end at the 12:52 mark to put the Zips on the board. Marshall responded with a Brandon Carey run around left end and into the endzone with 9:34 left in the half. On their very next possession, the Marshall offense fired again, this time in the form of Darius Watts' second touchdown catch-and-run, a 23-yarder. Akron finished out the half when Zac Derr booted a 35-yard field goal, and Marshall lead 24-10 at the half.
Franklin Wallace looks toward the endzone on his first touchdown run against Akron.
Sloppy defensive play on both sides of the ball led to the shootout in the second half. Marshall's Denero Marriott hauled in a 35-yard pass from Leftwich, but Curtis Head missed the PAT, with 10:09 in the third. Four minutes later, the Byron Leftwich Experience reared it's head again, this time in the form of a 69-yard touchdown catch-and-go by Josh Davis up the left sideline. Head missed the PAT for a second time, and Marshall had a seemingly comfortable 36-10 lead.
"We're just executing our offense," Byron Leftwich said. "This is the important part of the season. Everything counts."
Akron quarterback Charlie Frye then marched the Zips downfield on a 8-play, 79-yard drive that ended when Frye found Mike Brake in the endzone from five yards out. Bob Hendry completed the two-point conversion to make it 36-18 Marshall. With the fourth quarter underway, Hendry struck again. His 8-yard run with 11:27 on the clock (and Tim Ritley's two-point conversion) cut the Herd's lead to only ten, at 36-26.
The nails in the Zips' coffin came on the next two Marshall possessions, courtesy of Herd running back Franklin 'Butchie' Wallace. A 6-play, 34-yard drive ended with Wallace bouncing off the block of teammate Josh Davis from 1-yard out for the score. With 2:17 remaining, Wallace again was cut loose, and sprinted 36 yards for another touchdown. Marshall now had a comfy 50-26 lead with only 2:17 remaining.
"That's a key to our football team," Bob Pruett commented. "When we run the football, it just opens up the throw."
On the ensuing kickoff, Akron's Matt Carter found a gaping hole and sprinted virtually untouched 92 yards for the easy score. Zac Derr's kick finished the scoring and cemented the final 50-33 score.
"Akron came down with a good game plan, and were able to run the ball," Pruett added. "They did a good job of running the ball today."
Marshall quarterback Byron Leftwich had his third 400+ yard passing night in a row. Leftwich is the only Mid-American Conference quarterback to ever throw for 400+ yards in three consecutive games. Leftwich finished 434 yards on 25-of-39 passing, 4 TDs. The Washington, DC, sophomore spread the wealth among receivers, with three finishing the game with over 100 yards each: Darius Watts (2 TDs, 9 catches for 144 yards), Denero Marriott (7 catches, 108 yards, 1 TD), and Josh Davis (4 catches, 115 yards, 1 TD).
Franklin 'Butchie' Wallace ran all over the Marshall Stadium turf, just missing his first 200-yard performance by 4 yards with 196 on the ground, 2 TDs. Wallace actually ran for 200 yards even, but a tackle behind the line subtracted 4 yards off his total.
The Marshall offense cranked out a mind-boggling 726 yards of total offense, 434 in the air and 251 on the ground.
"That was a lot of offense out there today," Pruett summed up.
On defense, Marshall was led by linebacker Max Yates, who had 10 solo tackles, 9 assists, for 14.5 total tackles. Two were tackles for loss, one a sack. Chris Crocker finished with 5.5 tackles, and Yancey Satterwhite had 7.0 tackles for the night. Akron gained 523 total yards against Marshall's defense.
Marshall now moves to 6-1 overall, 5-0 in the Mid-American Conference, and face the Kent Golden Flashes next Saturday in Kent, Ohio. Akron falls to 2-6 overall, 2-4 in the MAC with the loss.