Sunday, November 27, 2011
East Carolina-Marshall: typically thrilling football
What it is about the East Carolina-Marshall University football match-up that typically creates an abundance of intrigue? Sure, the two schools are linked because of the tragedy that occurred over 40 years ago when the Thundering Herd’s chartered jet crashed before landing on a return trip from a road game against the Pirates.
Fast-forward three decades after the crash and you’ll discover that these two schools were participants in the highest-scoring affair in the history of college bowl games. Byron Leftwich passed for 576 yards and four touchdowns in Marshall’s 64-61 double overtime win over ECU in the 2001 GMAC Bowl played in Mobile, Alabama.
The most recent intriguing episode occurred on yesterday. The Herd and Pirates entered their regular-season finale against each other with identical 5-6 records. Both teams needed a win to become bowl eligible.
Marshall’s home crowd at Joan Edwards Stadium got its money’s worth, but there were some anxious moments. ECU scored right before the end of regulation to tie the game at 27 and force overtime. MU answered quickly on a one-yard touchdown run by Tron Martinez. Rakeem Cato’s 24-yard pass to Travon Van set up the game-winning score.
The Herd’s defense came up big on the next series when East Carolina attempted to produce the equalizer. On fourth and 12, Marshall defensive back Darryl Roberts intercepted a Dominique Davis pass to nullify the scoring threat and preserve a pulsating 34-27 OT victory. Now, it remains to be seen just where Marshall might go for the postseason.
Van finished with 73 rushing yards on seven carries and a score to go with six receptions for 68 yards. Cato completed 23 of 29 throws for 341 yards, which included a pair of touchdown passes to Aaron Dobson (four receptions for 110 yards). For ECU, Davis threw for 285 yards and three scores, but he also threw three picks, the last of which sealed his team’s fate for a losing season.