""Well, we got away with one," said Marshall coach Bob Pruett after the game. "We had them down 20 to nothing, they didn't fold. We let them get back in the game right before the half, and we didn't do anything."
In the first half, the game was anything but close. Marshall shot out to a quick 13-0 lead behind two field goals by Curtis Head (40 and 35 yards, respectively) and a 58 yard TD catch by Darius Watts. The Herd extended the lead to 20-0 on Denero Marriott's 8 yard TD catch with 8:43 to go in the second quarter, and appeared to have the Chippewas in hand.
However, the Chips had other plans. CMU quarterback Derrick Vickers marched the Chippewas down the field on the very next possession. 8 plays and 75 yards later, and Terrence Jackson waltzed into the endzone from one yard out for the touchdown. CMU's Mike Gruzwalski added a 25 yard field goal with :20 left in the half to cut the Marshall lead to only eleven, 20-9.
""Our red zone offense... we can't kick field goals, we have to score touchdowns," Pruett added. "We need to do that. You can't drop the ball, you can't have penalties, and you can't turn it over. And that's the things that we did."
Roberto Terrell used one hand to bring down CMU receiver Rob Turner.
In the second half, both offensive units failed to penetrate the endzone for either team and instead, both squads put up field goals (CMU's Gruzwalski a 25 yarder, and MU's Curtis Head hit a 19 yarder. Marshall's 23-13 lead would soon be cut into by the CMU offense that ran roughshod on the Marshall defense. In fact, the Chips racked up 208 yards on the ground against Marshall, utilizing back Terrence Jackson and Robbie Mixon to perfection.
It was Jackson's one-yard run with 5:15 remaining that cut the MU lead to only five, 23-18. Marshall's offense sputtered on the next drive, aided by a series of penalties (holding, false start,) that found the Herd facing third-and-28. Leftwich shot a bullet pass to Darius Watts that gave the Herd new life. However, on third-and-nine, Leftwich's pass was picked off by CMU's Jon Nelson at the CMU 17 yard line.
Suddenly, we had a ballgame on our hands.
CMU quarterback Derrick Vickers then began a game-winning drive. However, Marshall's defense rose to the occasion. Toriano Brown's sack of Vickers pushed the Chips back five yards. After completing only 1 of 4 passes on ensuing plays, plus being sacked by Marshall's Marcus Hairston, Vickers faced fourth-and-20 with 1:06 to play. All or nothing.
Vickers' fourth down pass fell short of its intended target, and Marshall took over on downs to seal the win, 23-18. It was not the effort that Pruett had hoped for.
""We've been feeling awful good about ourselves for 4 or 5 weeks now. We need to be feeling a little bit bad about ourselves," summed up Pruett. "We have no excuse. Just give Central Michigan credit for playing good."
Marshall quarterback Byron Leftwich completed 29-of-42 passes for 374 yards, one INT and two TDs. Three receivers were over 100 yards for the Herd: Marriott with 100, Josh Davis with 101, and Darius Watts led the way with 126 yards. Brandon Carey ran for 86 yards, carrying the load while Franklin Wallace was held out of the game due to injury.
Marshall's defense stepped up the occasion late in the game, led by Chris Crocker and Duran Smith, both with 12 tackles. Yancey Satterwhite's pick of CMU QB Derrick Vickers was Marshall's only interception on the day. And Toriano Brown and Marcus Hairston recorded the two sacks of Vickers.
With the win Marshall improves to 6-1 on the season, and 4-0 in MAC play. Central Michigan falls to 3-5 overall, and only 1-3 in the MAC. The Herd next travels to Akron on Saturday, November 5, to take on the Zips in a MAC East battle.