Kickoff: 4:30 p.m. EST
Senior Day at Marshall Stadium will take on a national scope when the Thundering Herd faces Ball State in a nationally televised game to wrap up the 2002 regular season.
Thanks to last week's heroics at Ohio, the Ball State game doesn't mean as much in the MAC standings, but it means a great deal to the 21 seniors who will be playing their last regular season game on their home field.
Last week, with 9:22 remaining in the second quarter, and Marshall trailing Ohio 7-3, Herd fans got what they had been hoping for. After missing one game with a severe shin injury, senior quarterback Byron Leftwich limped onto the field at Peden Stadium and took the reigns of the Marshall offense once again.
While his first performance back after the first major injury of his career wonít go down as one of his best, statistically, the Heisman Trophy candidate lit a fire under the Marshall offense and guided the Herd to a thrilling 24-21 come-from-behind victory over the Bobcats to clinch the Mid-American Conference East Division crown.
In addition to clinching their sixth straight MAC East crown, the Herd also secured their sixth straight post-season bowl trip when Murray Cape of the GMAC Bowl extended an official invitation to return to Mobile. The Herd will defend their 2001 GMAC Bowl title on Dec. 18 at Ladd-Peeples Stadium against an opponents from Conference USA.
Working strictly out of the shotgun, Leftwich completed seven of his first 14 passes to complete the first half against Ohio. The Bobcats, knowing Leftwich was unable to move in the pocket, blitzed from a different direction on virtually every down, while dropping the rest of their defenders into coverage. The result was just 62 yards passing and an interception late in the half to thwart a scoring chance.
The Herd made some adjustments in the second half, and the moves paid off. Junior running back Butchie Wallace, who had just eight carries for 34 yards at the half, carried the load for Marshall in the second half. Wallace carried the ball a career-high 29 times in the game, including seven times for 41 yards on Marshallís opening drive of the second half. The pounding runs paid off, opening the door for Leftwich to hit Denero Marriott on a 40-yard TD pass, giving Marshall the lead for good.
Leftwich was 12 of 15 passing in the second half for 157 yards in leading Marshall to the victory.
The Herd must now refocus its attention on the season finale against Ball State. With a MAC title game and bowl game looming in the near future, it might be easy for the Herd to look past the Cardinals, but 19 seniors who will be playing their final regular season game at Marshall Stadium wonít let that happen.
For the Herd seniors, many of whom have spent five seasons defending Marshall Stadium, nothing would be sweeter than adding to the 30-1 record they have amassed at home since first arriving in 1998.
The game against the Cardinals will be televised nationally by ESPN2 with a kickoff of 4:30 p.m.
GOING BOWLING: For the second straight year, the Thundering Herd will head south for bowl season. Marshall will face a team from Conference USA in the GMAC Bowl in Mobile, Ala. The game is scheduled for Wednesday night, Dec. 18, at 7 p.m. (CT) and will be nationally televised by ESPN2.
Tentative plans call for the Herd to arrive in Mobile on Friday afternoon, Dec. 13. Events scheduled for the week of the game include a tour of the battleship USS Alabama, a bowling tournament, an FCA breakfast featuring University of Miami head coach Larry Coker as guest speaker, a Mayorís luncheon feature ESPNís Lee Corso as guest speaker, a Mardi Gras style parade and fireworks show.
Tickets for the game are available through the Marshall Athletic Ticket office. For all of the latest information on the GMAC Bowl and the Herdís travel plans, visit the official Marshall athletics web site at www.HerdZone.com.