HUNTINGTON -- The Marshall defense may have let two Central Michigan running backs top 100 yards on the ground, but the unit made plays when it had to in the Herd's 42-21 win Saturday.
Chippewa running backs Terrence Jackson and Kenan Lawhorne both reached 100, with 108 and 100, respectively. Some of those yards, and two of the CMU scores, came late in the fourth with the game already out of reach, but the MU defenders still notice the numbers.
"They're both big backs," Marshall linebacker Michael Owens said. "We had to do what we had to do. They might be 100-yard rushers, but it's better than 200-yard rushers."
What was important for the Herd is when the defense did make plays.
With the Chippewas driving to the MU 27 early in the second quarter, Owens picked off a Derrick Vickers pass at the 1. The play, with CMU looking to extend its early lead to 14-0, likely turned the game in Marshall's favor.
Taking over at their own 9, the Herd drove the length of the field on a drive capped by a 6- yard Franklin Wallace touchdown run to tie the score.
"They were getting closer and closer to the end zone," Owens said. "They tried to run a stop and go to the other side. He tossed it up. I was looking at the man and I happened to look up and the ball was coming right at me."
Time after time, Marshall players snubbed out drives by a CMU offense that showed flashes of consistency.
"That's what our coaches talk about all the time," senior linebacker Max Yates said. "As a defense, we can bend, but we're not going to break. You don't get points for going 90 yards in fifteen plays.
"If we give the ball back to the offense, we did our job."
Some of the Chippewas' early success, and their only score against the defensive regulars, came as the offensive unit came out in a no huddle, hurry up set to start the game. Set up by a slant pattern that receiver Rob Turner turned into a 48 yard gain, CMU tacked on the first score on a 4-yard catch by tight end Tory Humphrey.
"We knew they were going to try to do a little bit of no huddle offense," Yates said. "We didn't know they were going to do it the whole game."
The touchdown drive also played off the fatigue of a defensive unit not used to the quickened pace.
"We got a little winded at first," MU cornerback Yancy Satterwhite said.
This game also marked the end of the six game spread of NCAA suspensions. The players suspended played predominately on the defensive side of the ball.
"We're just going to come out here as a full team, focused," Owens said. "I know how those guys play. It's just a great thing for them to come back and be a full team.
"It's going to be a great thing."
Sports writer Chris Vannoy can be reached at 626-1444 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org