Herd rings up Ohio

Published 12:00 am Saturday, November 29, 2003


- Marshall easily won the Battle of the Bell. Now it has a battle for a bowl.

Graham Gochneaur threw for one touchdown and ran for another to lead Marshall to a 28-0 victory over Ohio on Friday.

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Marshall (8-4, 6-2 Mid-American) now must wait to learn whether its six-year bowl streak will be snapped. If so, it would mark the first time since 1990 that the Thundering Herd have not played a postseason game.

''If it doesn't happen, fine,'' said Marshall coach Bob Pruett. ''But we gave ourselves an opportunity.''

The MAC has never sent three teams to bowls. East Division winner Miami of Ohio will play in the GMAC Bowl and the winner of Saturday's Toledo-Bowling Green game will head to the Motor City Bowl.

That leaves the Toledo-Bowling Green loser, Northern Illinois and Marshall at risk of staying home. Their bowl choices dwindled Friday when Navy (7-4) accepted a bid to the Houston Bowl.

Marshall athletic director Bob Marcum has worked the phones in recent days to try to persuade bowls to take the Thundering Herd.

''I told him this was a 50-50 deal. We did our half and let's see what he can do,'' Pruett said. ''Certainly we need to have some luck.''

They got some Friday - Colorado's 31-22 loss to Nebraska took the Buffaloes (5-7) out of bowl contention.

''We're going to be doing a lot of hoping and a lot of scoreboard watching these next couple of days,'' said Marshall offensive lineman Nate McPeek.

In a program known for record-setting passers Byron Leftwich and Chad Pennington, Earl Charles became Marshall's first 1,000-yard rusher since Doug Chapman in 1998.

''It feels awesome to bring back recognition to the program that we do run the ball,'' Charles said.

Charles, who has 1,039 yards this season, rushed for 115 yards while Butchie Wallace ran for 108. It marked the second time this season the pair has gone over 100 yards in the same game.

Darius Watts, playing on a sore ankle, became the conference's first 4,000-yard receiver.

Marshall converted two first-quarter turnovers into scores and held Ohio (2-10, 1-7) to 153 total yards on a cold, rainy day.

Ohio lost for the sixth straight time while Marshall earned its first shutout win since beating Temple 34-0 in 1999.

Marshall scored all of its points in the first half.

On the game's first series, Gladstone Coke recovered a fumble by Ohio quarterback Ryan Hawk at the Bobcats' 40. Six plays later, Gochneaur scored from 3 yards out.

Jonathan Goddard picked up a fumble by Ohio fullback Brad Young a minute later and went 40 yards untouched for a 14-0 lead.

''That hurts big time when those things happen,'' Hawk said. ''You can't do that to yourself because they're good enough as it is.''

A 22-yard punt gave Marshall great field position on its next series and Wallace capped the 39-yard drive with a 1-yard TD run.

Gochneaur closed the scoring by hitting Watts with a 10-yard TD pass midway through the second quarter.

Ohio's best scoring chance came in the third quarter when it drove 76 yards to the Marshall 4. But on fourth-and-1, Goddard hit quarterback Austen Everson as he pitched the ball, which was recovered at the 15.

Marshall then marched the length of the field only to have Gochneaur get sacked on fourth-and-goal at the 3.