June 30, 2005
#1– Dec. 19, 2001: Leftwich Leads Herd Back From 30– Point Deficit for 2001 GMAC Bowl Win

by Grant Traylor
Huntington News Network Sportswriter

As Marshall officially winds down the final ten days of being a member in the Mid– American Conference, the talk has certainly shifted to Marshall football in Conference USA.
But, before shutting the gates on the MAC career, HNN would like to take a chance to look back at some of the great moments in Marshall football.
The following is the final part of a 10– day series of the greatest football games over Marshall's eight years in the Mid– American Conference…from ashes to glory and beyond.
Here's a look at our #1 classic: Marshall's 30– point come– from– behind 64– 61 double– overtime victory over future Conference USA opponent East Carolina.
Mobile, Ala. – As many patrons in the crowd left at halftime of a 38– 8 bowl game, there were about 120 people that still wanted to watch the second half unfold.
It turns out that all those people were in the Marshall locker room that evening.
The Thundering Herd could do no right in the first half as East Carolina scored early and in almost every way possible throughout the half in rolling to the 30– point lead.
When the teams came out in the second half, Marshall came out energized and many in the stands wondered why they were so fired up after such a dismal half.
The answer was simple: they had nothing to lose!
East Carolina got the ball back to start the third quarter, but Ralph Street picked off a David Garrard pass and returned it 25 yards to give Marshall momentum.
Marshall was able to stop the Pirates again and Leftwich ran in from nine yards out to cut the lead to 38– 22.
East Carolina got a 22– yard field goal from Kevin Miller to take a 41– 22 lead. While the field goal gave East Carolina a 19– point lead, the stop was a moral victory for Marshall's defense as they were able to keep star running back Leonard Henry out of the end zone. After a Marshall drive stalled near mid– field, East Carolina took over deep in its own territory looking to put the dagger into the Thundering Herd. However, Terrence Tarpley picked off Garrard's pass and brought it back for Marshall's second defensive touchdown of the quarter.
The Marshall defense continued its dominance in the third quarter and took the ball in the end zone on Franklin Wallace's 15– yard touchdown run. At the end of three quarters, Marshall had turned a 38– 8 laugher into a 41– 36 thriller.
Another field goal by Miller made it a 44– 36 game, but Leftwich came back and drove the Thundering Herd down the field. His 30– yard touchdown pass to Denero Marriott brought the Thundering Herd faithful to their feet. However, a two– point conversion failed and East Carolina held a 44– 42 lead with 6:15 left in the game.
Just over a minute later, East Carolina scored its first touchdown of the second half on a 55– yard touchdown run by Travis Henry to take a 51– 42 lead.
Marshall came back with a 27– yard field goal from Curtis Head to cut the lead to 51– 45 with 1:52 remaining. An onside kick failed and, although Marshall had made a triumphant comeback, things looked bleak for the green and white.
However, the Thundering Herd defense was able to stop Henry and the East Carolina offense to force a punt with a minute remaining.
Leftwich stood staring at 80 yards with under a minute and no timeouts. However, this had not been the ordinary game and confidence levels were still high.
From there, what Leftwich did was absolutely magical. He hit Marriott and Watts for 20+ yard gains and then was moving the Thundering Herd well enough that East Carolina coach Steve Logan called timeout to give his squad a rest and quick pep talk.
The move seemed to backfire as Leftwich hit Watts in the corner of the end zone on a fade route. Watts was running to the corner, but Leftwich threw behind him to avoid the coverage and Watts bent back and made the circus catch.
With Marshall's crowd going crazy, the team lined up for the extra point as many anticipated an improbable Marshall victory. However, Curtis Head shanked the extra point wide right and the game remained tied at 51.
Marshall got the ball first in overtime and instantly went down the field. The Thundering Herd took its first lead of the game on a 2– yard run by Wallace. This time Head made the extra point and Marshall led 58– 51.
However, the lead was short– lived as Henry took the first play of East Carolina's drive straight up the middle for 25 yards and a score.
Marshall's defense was able to hold East Carolina for another Miller field goal, this one from 37– yards out before taking over in the second overtime.
Leftwich guided his team to the field with a sense of confidence because for the first time in the game, he held his team's destiny in his hands. Those hands would deliver rather quickly.
On the first play of the drive, Leftwich hit Marriott for a 21– yard reception down to the 4– yard line. Two consecutive running plays lost yardage before the Thundering Herd called a timeout to set up a play.
Leftwich took the snap and fired off a three– step drop to Josh Davis who caught the 8– yard laser beam to set off a wild celebration of green and white on the playing field.
The game was and still is the highest scoring bowl game of all– time. There were 125 points scored, 1,411 yards combined, and four defensive touchdowns.
Leftwich finished the game 41– of– 70 for 576 yards, with five total touchdowns: four passing and one rushing.
Marriott caught 15 of those passes for 234 yards while Watts had seven catches for 133 yards and two touchdowns.
The game was an instant hit and is still shown on ESPN Classic during college football viewing times.
Now, as the Thundering Herd roams to Conference USA, the teams will meet up again on November 19.
And there is no doubt that there will still be talk of the 2001 GMAC Bowl…the #1 MAC Memory!

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