Marshall Downs Bowling Green In Barn-burner

Herd's Win and Toledo's Rise in Rank Highlight This Week's 'Around the MAC'




Marshall 37, Bowling Green 31

On the strength of a phenomenal passing day from quarterback Byron Leftwich, the Marshall Thundering Herd handed the Bowling Green Falcons their first loss in a true barn-burner Saturday. Leftwich, who went 21 of 35 passing for 327 yards and four touchdowns in the contest, now has 10 touchdowns and one interception on the season.

The Falcons led by three early on in the third quarter before increasing their lead to 31-20 on quarterback Andy Sahm's third scoring strike of the day. Marshall, however, fought back to reclaim the lead before Leftwich hit Josh Davis with a 10-yard touchdown pass that capped a 10-play, 66-yard drive to ice the game for the Thundering Herd.

Sahm was excellent for Bowling Green, connecting on 16 of 30 passing attempts and finishing with 264 yards and three touchdowns.

Of the top five national receiving games this season, two of them came Saturday night in Huntington. Bowling Green wide receiver Robert Redd caught nine balls for 215 yards, setting a school record. Darrius Watts countered for Marshall with 198 yards on eight receptions.

Toledo 41, Northern Illinois 20

The Toledo Rockets, who came into the game ranked number 25 in the nation according to the Associated Press Coaches' Poll, pitted their perfect record up against divisional foe Northern Illinois thinking they were without the services of the nation's eighth leading rusher, Chester Taylor.

They were wrong.

With a severely bruised shoulder, Taylor sat out most of the first half before returning in the second to carry the ball 32 times, amassing 132 yards and three scores in just one half of play to lift his team to victory. With the win, Toledo climbed to 23rd in the nation in both the AP poll and the ESPN/USA Today Coaches' Poll.

The Rockets' defense held them in the game before Taylor's return by allowing NIU's leading rusher, Thomas Hammock, to gain only 10 yards on as many carries. Northern Illinois did keep the game close, however, as Lionel Hickenbottom intercepted quarterback Tavares Bolden's pass and took it 33 yards for a touchdown early in the second half.

The surge did not last long, as Taylor's backup - and roommate - Antwon McCray scampered 16 yards into the end zone to put the Rockets up by 14 and seal their 11th straight victory.

A crowd of 36,502 packed the Glass Bowl in Toledo, establishing a new MAC single-game record.

Western Michigan 31, Eastern Michigan 10

A pair of cross-state rivals met this weekend for their first action in the Mid-American Conference when the Eastern Michigan Eagles played host to the Western Michigan Broncos.

The Broncos set the tone for the game early as they forced two fumbles on Eagles' quarterback Kainoa Akina, both of which Western Michigan recovered inside their opponent's 30-yard line. The fumbles led to scoring runs of four and two yards, respectively, as the Broncos went up 24-0 early in the second quarter.

The Eagles showed some signs of life at the end of the second quarter with a drive that resulted in a 2-yard touchdown pass from Akina to Kevin Walter, putting them on the board a mere 35 seconds before halftime.

The Broncos, however, put the game out of reach when Ron Rogers took back the second half opening kickoff 92 yards for a touchdown.

Akron 14, Kent State 10

In a game highlighted by strange plays, the Akron Zips managed to eek out a win at home over the Kent State Golden Flashes. The victory, the Zips' fifth straight over Kent State and their second consecutive home win, puts Akron in first place in the MAC East division.

Kent State appeared in complete control of the contest as they took an early 10-0 lead after quarterback Joshua Cribbs caught a 32-yard option pass from wide receiver Mikal Lundy for a touchdown midway through the second quarter.

Zips running back Brandon Payne, the game's leading rusher with 23 carries and 135 yards, bulled in from one yard out to pull Akron within three at the half.

Defense dominated the second half until the ball was snapped over Kent State punter Jared Fritz's head, and the Zips gained control on their opponents' five-yard line. Payne put Akron ahead on the next play with his second scoring plunge.

The Golden Flashes put together one last drive that took them down to the Zips' 2-yard line. But, running back David Alston fumbled the ball, and Akron recovered to kill the game's remaining time.

Miami (OH) 28, Ball State 20

Running back Calvin Murray, Jr. took over the starting job and proved to be a vital asset to his team this weekend with a 25-carry, 183-yard performance that included touchdown runs of 9, 46 and 32 yards to lift the Miami RedHawks to their first road victory.

Miami signal-caller Ben Roethlisberger, who has had a hand in nine of the RedHawks' 12 touchdowns this season, was held to a modest 15-24 passing for 122 yards with one touchdown and one interception.

Ball State took a third quarter lead when slightly banged-up running back Marcus Merriweather scored from three yards out to put them up 20-14. Merriweather finished the game with 182 yards rushing and one touchdown on 27 carries.

The Ball State lead held until Murray again got his hands on the ball, torching the Ball State defense for two long touchdown runs that put the Red Hawks up for good.

Compiled by Sports Writer Nick Pezzino