"I was just so happy to be starting again," Leftwich said after the game. "To be playing in the first quarter. Just being in the huddle the whole game. That was the fun part for me, to just see me getting better and better."
Despite being hobbled by an ankle/shin injury at the beginning of November, Leftwich returned to previous form against Ball State. Coupled with a stingy Marshall defense that limited Ball State to only 282 yards total offense, Marshall literally walked right past Ball State.
Marshall TE Jason Rader caught this 4-yard TD pass in the first quarter.
"I thought our kids played extremely hard and well," Marshall coach Bob Pruett summed up. "This might have been the most complete, best game we've played to date."
Amid swirling winds and heavy snowfall in the first half, the Herd took the lead for good at 10-7 when Leftwich found tight end Jason Rader in the left corner of the end zone for the 4-yard TD pass with 1:35 left in the first quarter. The junior transfer from the University of Georgia was Leftwich's favorite target early in the game, grabbing four catches for 39 yards before halftime.
"We started out throwing the ball to me early, and that opens up the rest of the guys for the rest of the game," Rader said. "People don't know where we're going to attack from."
Marshall added two more scores before halftime, the first coming on Franklin Wallace's 1-yard leaping TD run with 14:39 left in the second quarter. Darius Watts hauled in Leftwich's 16-yard corner pass in the end zone on the Herd's next possession for the TD, giving Marshall a comfortable 24-7 lead at halftime.
Marshall tackle Toriano Brown puts pressure on Ball State quarterback Andy Roesch in the second half.
Stan Hill took over the quarterbacking duty on short-yardage situations for Leftwich, as he did against Ohio last week. Hill turned a short-yardage situation into seven easy points when he shot around left tackle on a 7-yard run for the TD with 11:08 left in the third quarter. Watts added his second TD of the game five minutes later, when Hill found him in the corner again.
Meanwhile, Marshall's defense was holding BSU running back Marcus Merriweather to only 87 yards rushing. Merriweather did punch in a touchdown late in the fourth quarter on a 12-yard run with only 1:37 left in the game. By then, the damage had been done to the BSU offense.
BSU quarterback Andy Roesch was held to 14-of-25 throwing for 177 yards and the one TD. Marshall intercepted Roesch three times in the game (Terence Tarpley, Charlie Tynes, and Willie Smith each picked Roesch), while deflecting seven of his passes as well.
"Our defense really got after them and made a lot of big plays," Pruett said.
Marshall racked up an impressive 557 yards of total offense in the win over Ball State. Denero Marriott (10 catches for 129 yards) and Josh Davis (8 catches for 128 yards) led the receiving corps, while Brandon Carey gained 101 yards on 12 carries on the ground.
Marshall advances to 9-2 overall and 7-1 in MAC play with the win, and begins preparations for the Mid-American Conference Championship game on December 7 at Marshall Stadium in Huntington. As of presstime, the winner of the MAC West division was still undecided.
Marshall has also accepted a bid to the GMAC Bowl on December 18 in Mobile, Alabama.
The loss finishes Ball State's season at an even 6-6 overall, 4-4 in MAC play.