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'Herd football' shows in 2nd half

by Rob Peirce

SPORTS WRITER

PONTIAC, Mich -- Marshall players have practiced it all season. It came out of coach Bob Pruett's mouth during every other interview. Wednesday in the Motor City Bowl, Herd football finally showed up.

This brand of football, characteristic of the way the Thundering Herd is expected to play, took form in an 11-play, 56-yard game-clinching drive, capped by a 5-yard TD run by Franklin Wallace.

Apparently, Herd football is based on concentration, if you ask coach Bob Pruett and quarterback Byron Leftwich.

"We had to concentrate and quit the trash talking," Pruett said.

From an individual standpoint, Leftwich, the general of Marshall's offense, simply needed to settle down.

"Herd football is what you saw the second half," he said. "The first half, I was too anxious trying to make plays. I told myself coming out in the second half that I owe it to the seniors and concentrate the best I can."

And for the game-winner, Leftwich buckled down.

It started with back-to-back passes to David Foye for a combined 10 yards. Leftwich then scrambled for 19, but most of that was wiped out by a personal foul.

Faced with a setback, Marshall kept its cool as Leftwich hit Darius Watts for nine, and two plays later, Wallace ran for nine.

Leftwich got another first down on third-and-1 via a line plunge, and the Herd was further aided by a pass interference call, which put the ball at Cincinnati's 5. Wallace scored on the next play.

What makes Herd football hum so well is the fact that it's experienced, Leftwich said.

"They know how to react in certain (difficult) situations," he said.

Of course, the Herd also had those quick strikes that Leftwich likes so much.

On the game's first drive, they scored on four plays, going 88 yards in 2:12, capped by Leftwich's longest pass of the year, a 77-yarder to Darius Watts.

It took Marshall four plays, 41 yards and 1:36 to score opening the second half, when Leftwich scored on a 1-yard plunge.

Cincinnati coach Rick Minter took a shot at what Herd football possibly means.

"We were forced into making mistakes, or made them, depending on how you want to look at it," he said.

"They seemed like they were on us quite a bit. Guys that run on their side of the ball created a big mash at the line of scrimmage."

Sports writer Rob Peirce can be reached at 626-1444 or by e-mail at sports@exponent-telegram.com.

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