The Miami RedHawks, tried and tried some more on Thursday night at The Joan. However, Marshall end Johnathan Goddard's defensive show, combined with the first signs of life in the Marshall offense this season including Donte Newsome's 52-yard touchdown, kept the RedHawks at bay as Marshall stonce again beat Miami in Huntington, 33-25, on ESPN2. "Boy, we haven't had this feeling in a while," said Marshall head coach Bob Pruett (1996-2004; 2008, Pruett is defensive coordinator at the Univ. of Va.) 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 (who was injured in the shooting on July 5 that killed Newsome) intercepted Miami QB Josh Betts' (Betts is on the roster of the Colts currently) first play from scrimmage. The ensuing seven-play drive ended with Ian O'Connor booting a 31-yard field goal to give The Herd the early 3-0 lead.
Marshall end Jonathan Goddard (who last played for the Colorado Crush in the AF2 league) sacked Miami QB Josh Betts in the first quarter, forcing this fumble and had MU record four sacks in the game against Miami in the 33-25 win on ESPN2, back on Sept. 30, 2004 (The Herd family lost Goddard on June 15, 2008, in a single vehicle crash in Florida).
Goddard began his domination of Betts on Miami's next drive, ending the five-play march by Miami by not only sacking Betts for his first of a school-record four in a single game, but also forcing and recovering the fumble. Just two plays later, Marshall quarterback Stan Hill (who played last in the AF2 in 2007) found senior 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 yards passing performance, his second big win over Miami at the Joan C. Edwards Stadium in three seasons.
"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 Hill of Bates' catch.
The RedHawks finally got in gear on their third possession. Miami running back Mike Smith ran up the middle for their first touchdown with 6:37 still left in the first quarter. Miami would take a 14-10 lead at the half following a Betts touchdown 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, however. Marshall added 10 points in the third quarter courtesy of a Josh Davis (currently with the Carolina Panthers after a season in NFL Europa in 2007) 16-yard touchdown catch and an O'Connor 29-yard field goal, regaining and extending the lead out to 20-14. Bates hauled in his second score of the night with 7:47 left in the quarter for a 27-14 surge by the Herd in the third. "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 junior running back Donte' Newsome's spectacular 52-yard touchdown run with 4:11 left in the third quarter, his first-ever touchdown run after playing two seasons at linebacker for MU. Newsome (who was playing for the Amarillo Dusters in AF2) had posted 24 tackles as a freshman and sophomore before Pruett switched him to offense in the spring. "We've got so many running backs right now, we don't know what to do with them," laughed 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 (a member of the Lexington Horsemen in AF2) combined for six sacks of Miami's 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 a fumble, which Goddard jumped on for Goddard's second recovery of the game that just about iced the game for Marshall.
"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 Smith. Smith bobbled and fumbled the ball out of bounds on the 1-yard line with 5:44 left, turning the ball over.
Bates emerged as the go-to guy against Miami, catching six passes for 66 yards and two touchdowns. Davis caught seven passes for 61 yards and one score. Running back Earl Charles turned up the wick in the second half and finished rushing for 140 yards on 22 carries, while Newsome had the long touchdown run for the Herd.
Kevin Atkins (who had a large role in the movie, "We Are Marshall" after playing in the AIFA indoor football league for the Huntington Heroes, and is now in Hollywood working as a guild actor) racked up a team-leading 10 tackles for Marshall, but the unstoppable Goddard and Martin stole the defensive show. The duo combined for nine tackles apiece, seven tackles for loss including six sacks of Betts, and two forced fumbles and recoveries of same.
Marshall bumped up to 1-3 overall with its first win of the season after tough losses to Troy, Ohio State and Georgia. The Herd is now 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 are the Ohio Bobcats on Saturday, October 9 in Athens, Ohio.
"This is the playoffs for us," said 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." (The Herd would finish the season 6-5, advancing to the PlainsCapital Fort Worth Bowl where Marshall lost to the Bearcats of Cincinnati, 32-14, in what was Pruett's last game as head coach when he resigned in the spring of 2005, paving the way for current head coach Mark Snyder to take the helm of the MU football program. Newsome would move back to defense, recording 24 tackles for the 2005 Herd.)