"Boy, we haven't had this feeling in a while," said Marshall coach Bob Pruett of the win. "We had it, we almost let it slip away, then we were able to get it back."
Everybody knows that when Miami and Marshall tee it up, you're going to get your money's worth. And Thursday's game was all that plus brownies for dessert.
The fireworks began early for Marshall when Curtis Keyes intercepted Miami QB Josh Betts' first play from scrimmage. The ensuing 7-play drive ended with Ian O'Connor booting a 31-yard field goal to give The Herd the early 3-0 lead.
Marshall end Jonathon Goddard sacked Miami QB Josh Betts in the first quarter, forcing this fumble. Goddard recorded four sacks against Miami in the 33-25 win on ESPN2.
Goddard began his domination of Betts on Miami's next drive, ending the 5-play march by Miami by not only sacking Betts (Goddard had 4 -yes, four sacks total) but also forcing and recovering the fumble.
Just two plays later, Marshall QB Stan Hill found receiver Brad Bates all alone in the back of the end zone for the easy touchdown and a quick 10-0 lead over the RedHawks. Hill would finish the game with a 23-for-37, 184 yard passing performance.
"We worked on passing the ball down the field a lot this week," Bates said.
"Man, he just made a good play on it," said QB Stan Hill of Bates' catch.
The RedHawks finally got in gear on their third possession, and back Mike Smith ran up the middle for the TD with 6:37 still left in the first quarter. Miami would take a 14-10 lead at the half following a Betts TD pass just :59 before the half.
Marshall was held to just 49 yards in the first half, while Miami racked up 138 yards, most (101 yards) via the ground.
The second half would turn to be just the opposite of the first half stats. Marshall added 10 points in the third quarter courtesy of a Josh Davis 16 yard touchdown catch and a Ian O'Connor 29-yard field goal, extending the lead out to 20-14. Bates hauled in his second TD of the night with 7:47 left in the third quarter.
"We got better offensively tonight," Pruett added. "We were able to run the football in the second half."
The fourth consecutive Marshall score came courtesy of back Donte' Newsome's spectacular 52-yard touchdown run with 4:11 left in the third quarter.
"We've got so many running backs right now, we don't know what to do with them," laughed QB Stan Hill. "When you get big plays like that, it just kills the other team."
The RedHawk offense was shut down in the fourth quarter on three of their four drives. Goddard and Jamus Martin combined for six sacks of Miami QB Josh Betts on the night, but none was bigger than on third and 10 with just under 12 minutes to go in the game. Martin chased Betts across the turf and forced the fumble which Goddard jumped on.
"We rolled our coverage over there, and Jamus ran him down," Pruett said of the play.
Miami cut the Marshall lead to 33-25 with 7:08 remaining, but could get no closer. Miami's Betts effectively sealed the game on an option pitch to back Mike Smith. Smith bobbled and fumbled the ball out of bounds on the 1-yard line with 5:44 left, turning the ball over.
Senior receiver Brad Bates emerged as the go-to guy against Miami, catching 6 passes for 66 yards and two TDs. Josh Davis caught 7 passes for 61 yards and one TD. Running back Earl Charles turned up the wick in the second half and finished rushing for 140 yards on 22 carries.
Kevin Atkins racked up a team-leading 10 tackles for Marshall, but the unstoppable Jonathon Goddard and Jamus Martin stole the defensive show. The duo combined for 9 tackles apiece, 7 tackles for loss including 6 sacks of Miami's Betts, and two forced fumbles.
Marshall bumped up to 1-3 overall and a perfect 1-0 in the Mid-American Conference with the key win over Miami. Meanwhile, the RedHawks dropped to 2-2 overall and 0-1 in the MAC with the loss. Next up for The Herd is the Ohio Bobcats on Saturday, October 9 in Athens, Ohio.
"This is the playoffs for us," summed up Stan Hill. "I think we've set the tone for the [MAC] East. We threw the ball well, and we ran it eve better. That's Marshall football, and we showed it tonight."
What a difference two weeks can make.