Marshall 64 – East Carolina 61
MOBILE, Ala. (AP) — Marshall and East Carolina piled up the points so quickly that even the coaches had trouble keeping track. In the highest-scoring bowl game in history, Marshall rallied past the Pirates 64-61 in double overtime Wednesday night to win the GMAC Bowl behind Byron Leftwich’s 576 yards passing.
“Lord, have mercy,” East Carolina coach Steve Logan exclaimed. “I hope everyone got their money’s worth.”
Leftwich capped his night with an 8-yard touchdown toss to Josh Davis to end it, capping Marshall’s comeback from a 30-point halftime deficit.
Previously, the highest-scoring bowl was Texas Tech’s 55-41 victory over Air Force in the 1995 Copper.
The Thundering Herd (11-2) stormed back from a 38-8 halftime deficit, tying it at 51 in the final seconds of the fourth quarter. Marshall wasted a chance to win in regulation when it missed the extra point.
“I guess we had to make it a little dramatic and miss that extra point, then give the fans and TV a little bit more thrill,” Marshall coach Bob Pruett said. “It’s bad that a team had to lose.”
Leftwich finished 41-of-70 with four scoring passes and a TD run.
Ahead 51-45, East Carolina (6-6) recovered an onsides kick in the final two minutes. But the Pirates couldn’t run out the clock and punted into the end zone.
Marshall took over at its 20 with 50 seconds left and no timeouts. After two incomplete passes, Leftwich hit Denero Marriott for 20 yards.
Leftwich then connected with Curtis Jones for 27 yards and Marriott for 23. Marshall made it 51-all when Leftwich hit a leaping Darius Watts in the corner of the end zone for an 11-yard touchdown with seven seconds left. Curtis Head’s extra-point try was wide right, his seventh missed PAT of the year, leaving it tied.
Both teams scored touchdowns in the first overtime. Marshall’s Franklin Wallace had a 2-yard run and Leonard Henry came back with a 25-yard TD on the next play.
Marshall held East Carolina to Kevin Miller’s 37-yard field goal in the second overtime.
Then, Leftwich hit Marriott for a 21-yard completion. After two running plays lost yardage, Leftwich connected with Davis to win it on third-and-goal.
The game featured four defensive touchdowns, two by East Carolina in the first four minutes of the game and two by Marshall in the third quarter.
Henry rushed for 195 yards and three scores on 29 carries, but couldn’t overcome Leftwich’s fifth 400-yard passing performance of the year.
Marriott had 15 catches for 234 yards and Watts added 133 yards and two scores on seven receptions.
The teams combined for 1,141 total yards.
A few thousand fans left at halftime, and they missed seeing the Thundering Herd come back with 28 third-quarter points, scoring on 25-yard interception returns by Ralph Street and Terrence Tarpley.
An East Carolina fumble then set up Wallace’s 15-yard scoring run to make it 41-36 with a minute left.
Miller then hit a 32-yard field goal, his third, after David Garrard’s touchdown run was negated by a holding call.
Marshall had committed just nine turnovers in its first 12 games, but nearly self-destructed early.
On the game’s second play, Leftwich’s screen pass bounced off Marriott’s arm and in the arms of Ty Hunt, who took it 12 yards into the end zone.
The Thundering Herd’s next drive ended when Leftwich couldn’t handle a high snap. He tried to fall on it, but the ball squibbed out of his hands and Jerome Steward scooped it up for a 43-yard score.
Leftwich appeared to click into gear on the next drive, completing five straight passes. But he threw an interception directly to Steward in the back of the end zone.
A muffed punt set up Garrard’s 6-yard scoring run late in the first half.