Pizza! Pizza!, Herd Wins 21-17


Marshall running back Martin Ward (29) gets past Ohio's Julian Posey (9) on a 12-yard run for a touchdown during the first quarter of the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl NCAA college football game on Saturday, Dec. 26, 2009, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Duane Burleson)

Marshall running back Martin Ward (29) gets past Ohio's Julian Posey (9) on a 12-yard run for a touchdown during the first quarter of the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl NCAA college football game on Saturday, Dec. 26, 2009, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Duane Burleson)

Dec. 26, 2009

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DETROIT (AP) - Martin Ward ran for two touchdowns in the first half Saturday and Marshall held off Ohio 21-17 in the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl.

DeQuan Bembry's interception with 40 seconds left sealed the victory for the Thundering Herd (7-6), who led by three touchdowns midway through the second quarter.

The Bobcats (9-5) rallied with Shannon Ballard's 75-yard return off a fumble in the second quarter, Terrence McCrae's TD catch and Matt Weller's field goal. Ohio had chances to complete the comeback but was stunted on the drive before its final possession.

The game looked like it was going to be a rout when Ward's 2-yard run put Marshall ahead 21-0 with 7:21 left in the first half. Ward scored on a 12-yard run late in the first quarter and Andre Booker had 58-yard punt return for a touchdown at the end of the quarter.

Just when it appeared as if the Herd were going to make the game lopsided, Ballard returned a fumble 75 yards and gave Ohio a much-needed spark. The Bobcats carried the momentum into the second half, when Theo Scott connected with a leaping McCrae in the end zone on an 8-yard pass midway through the third quarter.

Weller's 46-yard field goal made it 21-17.

Marshall didn't have a first down after halftime until its fourth possession, then it negated a 20-yard gain with a holding penalty and was forced to punt.

Ohio drove to the Marshall 13 on the ensuing drive - taking advantage of two late-hit penalties against the Herd - but stalled and missed a field goal that would've pulled the Bobcats within a point early in the fourth quarter.

The Bobcats stayed in the game despite just 123 yards of offense.

Marshall didn't exactly move up and down the field at will, but it scored enough early in the game to win. Brian Anderson was 12 of 17 for 85 yards for the Herd, and Ward ran for 75 yards and two scores on 10 carries.

Scott was 14 of 26 for 111 yards with a TD and an interception for Ohio. Chris Garrett was held to 30 yards on 10 carries and Taylor Price caught four passes for 49 yards.

Junior linebacker Mario Harvey led a strong Marshall defense with 12 tackles and two sacks. Marshall limited Ohio to only 12 yards rushing and only 111 yards passing for the game. Marshall produced 275 yards of offense to Ohio's 123.

The schools, located 82 miles apart, played 52 times between 1905 and 2004 in "The Battle for the Bell," with the trophy symbolizing the Ohio River separating Ohio and West Virginia. They hadn't played since Marshall left the Mid-American Conference for Conference USA in 2005.

Ohio was led by Frank Solich, the former Nebraska coach, while the Herd had interim coach Rick Minter on their sideline. Mark Snyder resigned at Marshall after the regular season and will be replaced by Doc Holliday, who was an assistant to Urban Meyer on Florida's 2006 national championship team.

Sarah Thomas made history during the game, becoming the first woman to officiate a bowl game, according to a Little Caesars Bowl spokesman. She was the first woman to be an official for a major college football game in 2007 and is on the NFL's list of officiating prospects.

Marshall Bowl Notes
We Are...Back: Marshall made its first post-season appearance since 2004 in the 2009 Little Caesars Pizza Bowl and with the win over Ohio posted the program's first winning season since 2003. Marshall finishes the 2009 campaign at 7-6 overall and is expected to return 15 starters next season, including its starting quarterback, leading rusher and all of its receivers. This is Marshall's first bowl win since the 2002 GMAC Bowl.

Motor City Magic: Marshall University football has a lot of fond memories from Detroit, having made four straight appearances in the Motor City Bowl from 1997-2000. With the win over Ohio in the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl, Marshall is now 4-1 all-time in the Motor City.

Marshall Returns: Junior running back Darius Marshall returned after missing the last two games of the regular season due to a high ankle sprain. The standout rushed for 77 yards in the game.

Ward Earns MVP Honors: Marshall freshman running back Martin Ward earned MVP honors by rushing for 75 yards and two touchdowns in the game.

MU vs. Ohio: With the win in the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl, Marshall has now won five straight over the Bobcats and nine of the last 10 meetings. However, Ohio still leads the all-time series that dates back to 1905 with a record of 29-18-6. The two schools start a six year home and home series next season with OU visiting Huntington.

Marshall All-Time in Bowls: Marshall is now 6-3 all-time in bowl games. The Thundering Herd has also now won six of its last seven bowl games.

Marshall's Bowl History (6-3)

1947	Tangerine Bowl		Catawba def. Marshall, 7-0
1997	Motor City Bowl		Ole Miss def. Marshall, 34-31
1998	Motor City Bowl		Marshall def. Louisville, 48-29
1999	Motor City Bowl		Marshall def. BYU, 21-3
2000	Motor City Bowl		Marshall def. Cincinnati, 25-14
2001	GMAC Bowl			Marshall def. East Carolina, 64-61 (2 OT)
2002	GMAC Bowl			Marshall def. Louisville, 38-15
2004	Ft. Worth Bowl		Cincinnati def. Marshall, 32-14
2009	Little Caesars Pizza Bowl	Marshall def. Ohio, 21-17

Marshall vs. the MAC: Marshall is 2-0 against Mid-American Conference schools since leaving the MAC in 2005 to join Conference USA. Both of those wins came this season with Marshall downing Bowling Green 17-10 earlier this year. Marshall is now 53-10 against MAC schools since 1997.

Book it: Freshman Andre Booker scored his first collegiate touchdown by returning a punt 58 yards for a touchdown to close out the first quarter and give the Herd a 14-0 lead.

Strong Start for the Herd: Marshall jumped out to a 14-0 lead in the first quarter and went ahead 21-0 before Ohio took a fumble and returned it 75 yards for a score. Marshall led the game 21-7 at the half, however Ohio took advantage of poor special teams play and Marshall's inability to move the ball effectively in the third quarter to cut the lead to 21-17. A key turning point in the game came with Marshall up 21-0 and facing a fourth and short on the Ohio 4-yard line. Instead of kicking the field goal, MU opted to go for it with a Darius Marshall toss sweep to the left side that was stopped for no-gain.

Great D: Marshall's defense came through limiting Ohio to only 12 rushing yards and 111 yards passing for the game. Leading the charge was junior linebacker Mario Harvey who posted a team-high 12 tackles with a game high two sacks (-22 yards).