"Leftwich has got so much courage," Akron coach Lee Owens would surmise after his Zips (2-7, 1-4 MAC East) capitalized on the Herd's turnovers -and played some outstanding defense, to boot- to beat Marshalll for the first time since 1977. Marshall fumbled nine times in the game, losing five, and Leftwich and Stan Hill each threw an interception. Ricky McKenzie returned a fumble 98 yards for Akron's first score and intercepted a late pass by Leftwich.
The game began on an ominous note for Marshall. Running back Franklin Wallace committed Marshall's first turnover on the very first play from scrimmage, fumbling the ball after running around left tackle.
Then, Marshall's world would come crashing down. With 6:44 remaining in the first quarter, Marshall quarterback Byron Leftwich sustained an ankle injury caused when Akron's Ryan Myers' dove at Leftwich's ankle during a pass play. Leftwich immediately left the game, with backup Stan Hill being pressed into play. Wallace would fumble again on the very next play, and Akron's Ricky McKenzie picked up the loose ball and ran untouched 98 yards for the easy score.
Marshall QB Byron Leftwich injured his ankle early in the fourth quarter. Leftwich's courageous comeback wasn't enough to topple Akron.
Leftwich would return briefly to action, but was forced to leave the game by the badly injured ankle. Akron capitalized on three more Marshall turnovers during the half, and enjoyed a 24-10 lead at halftime.
"At the hospital his shin was just x-rayed," Marshall coach Bob Pruett said afterward. "The same shin that was operated on last summer. He didn't want to go to the hospital, he wanted to continue to play. He is a competitor. He came out and played hard. He showed a tremendous amount of courage, but their football team did, too."
Down 27-10 and on the verge of coming unglued, Byron Leftwich returned from the hospital to take the reigns back at 7:06 of the third quarter. Despite no mobility and having to be carried between plays by linemen Steve Sciullo and Nate McPeek, Leftwich guided the Marshall offense on a scoring drive that ended with Franklin Wallace diving into the endzone with 4:12 left in the third quarter.
Marshall running back Franklin Wallace leaps over teammate Josh Davis on a run in the second half.
"We never felt safe with him on the field," Akron coach Lee Owens said of Marshall's Heisman Trophy candidate quarterback, even though he had only one good leg.
Akron kept their lead at 17 points when quarterback Charlie Frye sprinted 26 yards for a touchdown on a bootleg play with 1:00 left in the quarter, however. Marshall's Curtis Head would add a 22 yard field goal in the fourth quarter for the final score in the game.
"I thought we came back after the half and did some good things and Stan (Hill) was handling things well, but we dropped the ball again," summed up Marshall coach Bob Pruett. "We busted our own bubble, so consequently, we got beat."
Leftwich finished the game 26-of-38, for 307 yards in the air, a spectacular number considering he literally had one leg tied behind his back. Josh Davis led the Marshall receiving corps with 8 catches for 144 yards in the losing effort. Marshall's offense, plagued by turnovers and an Akron defense playing better than any team had witnessed so far this season, never got on track in the game.
Marshall drops to 6-2 overall, 4-1 in MAC play with the loss. Akron adds their first MAC win of the season with the win, and improve to 2-7 overall, 1-4 in the MAC. Marshall now prepares for a Tuesday night ESPN2 showdown with MAC East rival the Miami RedHawks on November 12, while Akron travels to play Ohio University on November 9 at Athens, Ohio.
"It's very big," summed up Akron quarterback Charlie Frye of the Zips' win over #25 Marshall.
To beat a team that is ranked in the top 25 and to be the underdog in this situation is tough," Akron coach Lee Owens said proudly. "We've gone through so much adversity in the course of the season and nobody gives you a chance to win, it makes tonight awful big."