Thundering Herd, Wallace rout Akron

Published 12:00 am Sunday, November 2, 2003

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - Butchie Wallace had Akron's number on Saturday.

All week, Wallace studied tapes of Marshall's loss to Akron last year, scribbling down the jersey numbers of certain Zips players who might have caused him to fumble.

Then, he and his teammates went after them, one by one, during Marshall's 42-24 victory over the Zips.

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''I had like a hit list,'' Wallace said. ''I was definitely going to knock (Akron's Chase Blackburn) out. That's the mentality I have. I tried to run the football with a defensive mentality. … (Coaches) told us not to dwell on last year, but (the loss) hurt me for months.''

Wallace, who lost three fumbles in last year's defeat, had 147 yards and a 36-yard touchdown Saturday as two Thundering Herd players ran for 100 yards apiece for the first time in five years.

Earl Charles scored three touchdowns and added 121 yards rushing for Marshall (6-3, 4-1 Mid-American), which was well beyond its average of 167 rushing yards per game by halftime.

''The thing we could do that they couldn't was run the football,'' Marshall coach Bob Pruett said. ''I thought this was our most complete game.''

The Thundering Herd had 573 yards of offense to Akron's 391, and put the Zips (5-5, 3-3) out of reach with 21 second-quarter points.

Wallace had 103 of Marshall's 236 first-half rushing yards, and Charles had touchdown runs of 2, 6 and 19 yards.

They became the first Marshall duo since Doug Chapman and Llow Turner against Kent State in October 1998 to surpass 100 yards rushing apiece.

''I didn't sleep all week because I was worried about them being able to knock us off the ball,'' Akron coach Lee Owens said. ''They're so much bigger than we are, and they took advantage of it.''

Charles said, ''Every game is a perfect game for both backs to go over 100 yards.''

Graham Gochneaur, starting in place of the injured Stan Hill, completed 15-of-25 passes for 199 yards with two touchdowns. He was intercepted twice by Rickey McKenzie.

Gochneaur's 20-yard touchdown pass to Jason Schroeder was set up by Gladstone Coke's 32-yard interception return. He also threw a 5-yard TD to Darius Watts.

Schroeder had a career-high five receptions for 98 yards, all in the first half, to lead Marshall because Akron was determined to keep the Herd's top two receivers - Watts and Josh Davis - in check.

''You can take one or two of them away, but someone else will still make plays,'' Owens said.

Charlie Frye, listed as questionable after injuring his hip last week, replaced Micah Faler after one series at quarterback and immediately passed Akron downfield, throwing a 41-yard catch-and-run touchdown to Nick Sparks.

Wallace scored on Marshall's next possession to give the Herd the lead for good.

Frye completed 16-of-32 passes for 210 yards with a touchdown. He was intercepted twice by Coke.

Owens said he decided Saturday morning that Frye would play because his hip had healed significantly since Thursday. After Faler's second pass was swatted away by the Marshall defensive line, Owens instinctively inserted his star quarterback.

Jerrell Ringer had 40 of his 49 rushing yards on a late touchdown run for Akron, while Bobby Hendry's 47 rushing yards were 36 below his average for the Zips.

McKenzie, who returned an interception 43 yards for a touchdown, scored against Marshall for the second straight year. He returned a fumble 98 yards for a touchdown in Akron's win in 2002.

With four receptions Saturday, Matt Cherry became Akron's all-time leader with 140 career catches.

Marshall remains in the hunt for another MAC championship game berth. The Thundering Herd controls its own destiny in the East Division and would advance to the title game with wins in their final three regular season games, all against divisional foes.

''We've all got a fire under our (backside) now, and we're ready to roll,'' Schroeder said. ''We're energized and we're going to carry it all the way through the MAC championship and bowl game and win all of them.''