"These types of games are always tough," said MU coach Bob Pruett, "when you're playing for pride. We're glad to get away with the win."
The game began slowly for Marshall, with Western Michigan getting on the board first when Greg Jennings went 39 yards on a pass from Blayne Baggett with 10:25 left in the first quarter. Marshall responded appropriately just two plays later, via running back Ahmad Bradshaw. On second-and-ten, the freshman back broke around the left end and ran untouched 77 yards for the score to knot the game at 7-7.
Marshall back Ahmad Bradshaw dodged the tackle of WMU cornerback Scott Robinson during Bradshaw's 77-yard touchdown run in the first quarter.
Bradshaw would rack up 145 yards in the first half on 7 carries, setting the tone for The Herd's offense the rest of the game.
The Broncos weren't going to go down easy, however. An 8-play, 85-yard drive by WMU ended when Tyson Devree caught a 9-yard TD pass from Baggett with 6:13 left to shoot the Broncos back out to a 14-7 lead.
Then the second quarter arrived, bringing with it 17 unanswered points by Marshall.
Kicker Ian O'Connor began the scoring binge via a 42-yard field goal with 14:07 left. Special teams got involved in the mix when Shawn Lauzon blocked a 43-yard field goal attempt by WMU's Nate Meyer on the Broncos' next possession.
WR Josh Davis hauled in this 20-yard touchdown catch from QB Stan Hill with 6:49 left in the second quarter.
Marshall defensive back Roberto Terrell picked off WMU QB Baggett just three plays later and criss-crossed the field on the 44-yard return for a touchdown, giving Marshall the halftime lead at 24-14.
"I had to break out my running back skills," Terrell laughed.
Things tightened up for Marshall fans late in the fourth quarter. Broncos QB Baggett moved WMU to within three points at 24-21 after a 5-play, 52-yard march that ended with back Mark Bonds rushing up the middle for the one-yard score with just 3:55 left in the game.
Running back Earl Charles capped his senior season at MU in grand style, however, on The Herd's final possession. Charles handled the ball on five of the six plays in the drive, shutting the door on Western Michigan on third down and four at the 49 yard line. Charles broke free around the left end and ran untouched for the 49-yard game-sealing touchdown. It was learned after the game that Charles's run was done with a torn meniscus in the left knee.
"He did a tremendous job," Pruett said of Charles. "He was close to breaking a bunch of them today. He's just the ultimate team guy."
Quarterback Stan Hill threw 18-of-28 for 169 yards and three picks by Western Michigan. Marshall's offensive damage was all done via the running of Bradshaw (8 carries for 145 yards and the one TD) and Earl Charles (20 carries, 148 yards, one TD).
Defensively, Marshall sacked WMU QB Blayne Baggett four times with end Jonathan Goddard recording 3.5 of those sacks. The Broncos did put up 329 yards through the air, but just 79 yards on the ground. J.T. Rembert lead Marshall with 9 tackles (4 solo, 5 assists) and one pick of Baggett, with Goddard close behind with 8 tackles (3 solo, 5 assists) and the 3.5 sacks of Baggett.
"He altered what they were doing," said Pruett of Goddard.
The win gives Marshall a 6-5 overall record for the season (6-2 in the MAC), while Western Michigan ends their season just 1-10 overall, 0-8 in conference play. With six wins but no conference title, Marshall is still in bowl contention, at least in WMU coach Gary Darnell's mind.
"The program has presented itself many times over that it will support a bowl appearance," Darnell hinted. "In the whole economic factor of having bowls, Marshall has showed up to the table [in the past]."
"Given Marshall's history and level of performance, why not?"