Sixth Straight East Title At Stake In Annual “Battle For The Bell”
Game Notes (.pdf)
Since taking over the Marshall football program in 1996, Herd coach Bob Pruett’s theme has been “We Play for Championships!” This Saturday when the Herd takes on Ohio the game will not only be for “The Bell” but will also be for the Mid-American Conference East Division title.
A victory by the Herd would clinch the division crown for a sixth straight year and land Marshall the host role for the MAC championship game on December 7.
Since Pruett took over at Marshall, the Herd is 15-2 in games that decided a championship -- including division title, league title, bowl championship and one I-AA national title.
But for Marshall, the game will mean much more. The last time the Herd made the short trip to Athens, in 2000, the Bobcats pulled off the upset. For many of Marshall’s upperclassmen, that game still leaves as sour taste in their mouths.
The Herd will also likely be boosted by the return of senior quarterback Byron Leftwich. The Heisman Trophy candidate saw his streak of 34 consecutive starts come to an end last week because of a shin injury he suffered on Nov. 2 at Akron. With Leftwich prowling the sideline on crutches, backup Stan Hill turned in the most dramatic first start for a quarterback in Marshall football history.
All Hill did against the RedHawks was complete 25 of 39 pass attempts for 292 yards and four touchdowns while rushing for 33 yards and the game-winning touchdown with just five seconds left on the game clock. For his performance, Hill was named the MAC East Division Offensive Player of the Week.
Leftwich has enjoyed great personal success against Ohio, having completed 69.6% of his passes (55-79) for 698 yards and eight touchdowns with no interceptions. Last year he had a career-best, and school-record tying, six TD passes against Ohio, with four of the scoring tosses going to Darius Watts.
With the potential return of Leftwich, the Herd will be close to full strength on both sides of the ball. Seniors Duran Smith and Yancey Satterwhite both suffered injuries in the Miami game, but are expected to be ready for action against Ohio.