"We didn't play with any enthusiasm at all in the first half, on either side of the ball," said Marshall coach Bob Pruett after the game. "We just played a poor half of football."
The Herd struggled to gain its footing early in the game. On Marshall's first play from scrimmage, quarterback Stan Hill had the ball slip from his hand, and KSU's Roger Attieh nabbed the interception. Just three plays later, and the Golden Flashes David Alston ran in from 2 yards out for the quick score.
"We didn't give him [Hill] or anybody a chance to make any plays," Pruett added.
That struggle continued on KSU's next series, when quarterback Joshua Cribbs guided the Flashes on a 4-play, 74-yard drive that ended with Charles Newton's 31-yard TD catch. Just six and one-half minutes into the game, and Marshall was down 14-0.
Backup quarterback Graham Gochneaur stepped in on MU's third series for starter Stan Hill, and sparked Marshall to their first scoring drive. Gochneaur ran a 7-play, 75-yard drive that ended with tight end Joe Deifel scoring on a 15-yard pass over the middle with 4 minutes left in the first quarter.
"We challenged our guys at halftime and they stepped up and met that challenge and made some plays in the second half," Pruett added.
Down 17-7 at the half, the Marshall defense responded to Pruett's challenge. KSU punter Joshua Brazen was flagged for illegally punting the ball from the ground, handing Marshall possession on the KSU three yard line with 13:42 left in the third quarter. Freshman running back Ahmad Bradshaw ran in three plays later for the touchdown, Bradshaw's first collegiate score. It would not be his only score of the day.
Just two possessions later, Bradshaw would again strike courtesy of a 75-yard catch-and-go from quarterback Stan Hill. "We gave him [Hill] a little bit better protection," Pruett said of Hill's improved throwing on the drive. Bradshaw broke three tackles en route to the goal line. The score put Marshall in the lead for good, 21-17, with 6:35 left in the third quarter.
"Ahmad made a really great run on the screen play," MU coach Bob Pruett praised of the freshman running back.
Defensively, the Herd shut out Joshua Cribbs in the second half and received strong efforts from a host of players. Senior lineman Reggie Hayes led the way with eight tackles and 2.5 tackles for a loss. Defensive ends, Jamus Martin and Jonathan Goddard both recorded seven tackles, with Goddard continuing his stellar play with 1.5 sacks for a loss of 15 yards and 2.5 total tackles for a loss of 16 yards. Martin added two sacks of his own and 2.5 tackles for a total loss of 18 yards.
"Our guys came back, we created turnovers, and made plays," Pruett described the difference between the first and second half for The Herd.
Kicker Ian O'Connor hit two field goals from 26 and 24 yards during the second half, extending the Marshall lead to the final 27-17.
Bradshaw's breakout game included 3 catches for 92 yards and two touchdowns, one each on the ground and through the air. Marshall put up just 239 yards of offense, while Kent could only muster 235 yards.
Marshall's Hill finished 9-of-23 passing for 143 yards, a touchdown, and one interception. Senior Graham Gochneaur, who sparked the Herd's first scoring drive after entering the game on Marshall's third possession, finished 6-of-12 for 55 yards and a score.
Kent's Cribbs finished the night 13-of-34 for 122 yards, three interceptions, and one touchdown. He rushed the ball sixteen times for 37 yards.
Marshall is now the only undefeated team in MAC East play, upping their record to 3-3 overall and 3-0 in the conference. Kent drops down to 1-6 overall and 0-4 in the MAC with the homecoming loss.