"Marshall is a great team that has great fan support," Gottfried said. "We knew we had a pretty good matchup, so we knew there were going to be a lot of points."
Gottfried will get no argument about that last statement. Down 38-8 at halftime, most observers had indeed counted Marshall out. C-USA was whipping up on the MAC like never before, and all on national TV via ESPN2. "38-8, I did not count Marshall out," Gottfried added. "Marshall is capable of getting back into this game."
Of course, Marshall did just that. Behind the 576 passing yards of quarterback Byron Leftwich, the Herd mounted a comeback that kept those in attendance at Ladd-Peebles Stadium mesmerized over the course of the final half, and through two overtimes.
Funny how a gamble on Marshall was paid off with the number 7 --as in Marshall quarterback Byron Leftwich, who wears, you guessed it, number 7.
"Byron Leftwich, I think he will be a favorite (for the Heisman in 2002)," Gottfried offered up after witnessing the 6-6 quarterback's miraculous effort against ECU. "I think ESPN should get Marshall on TV three times next year," he added when asked if the much-needed TV exposure to solidly make Leftwich a Heisman contender would be there next year.
Keeping the 7 theme going, Leftwich hit receiver Darius Watts for the game-tying touchdown with --again, you guessed it-- exactly 7 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter.
In all, Gottfried feels he hit a lucky 7 with the Marshall gamble. Not only did he get the highest-scoring game in college bowl history, but Gottfried saw his GMAC Bowl get top-billing on ESPN's SportsCenter (tough to do for a mid-level bowl game these days), and he also witnessed the unofficial launch party for Leftwich's 2002 Heisman campaign. Not a bad night in the Port City, if you ask Gottfried.
Mike Gottfried hit the lucky sevens alright.
"One of the greatest games I've ever seen," Gottfried summed up, smiling.