MOBILE, Alabama (Ticker) -- Byron Leftwich turned a nightmarish start for 25th-ranked Marshall into one of the most memorable finishes in NCAA football history.
Leftwich tossed an eight-yard touchdown pass to Josh Davis in the second overtime as the Thundering Herd rallied from a 30-point halftime deficit to stun East Carolina, 64-61, in the GMAC Bowl.
"It's a shame that a team had to lose," Marshall coach Bob Pruett said. "I've never been on a team that scored 64 points and gave up 61 at the same time."
It was the highest-scoring bowl game ever, surpassing the 96 points in the 1995 Copper Bowl between Texas Tech and Air Force. The Thundering Herd outscored the Marshall basketball team, which totaled 60 points in its last contest against Auburn.
"It was quite a show," East Carolina coach Steve Logan said. "I hope everybody got their money's worth."
Despite taking a physical pounding, Leftwich completed 41-of-70 passes for a career-high 576 yards and four touchdowns, helping the Thundering Herd (11-2) erase a 38-8 halftime deficit.
"I talked to them about not quitting," Pruett said. "I talked to them about belief and faith and those type things."
With no timeouts, Marshall drove 80 yards in the final minute of regulation and tied it at 51-51 when Leftwich threw an 11-yard TD pass to Darius Watts, who made a leaping grab in the right corner of the end zone with seven seconds left.
Ironically, Marshall squandered a 23-point second-quarter lead in a 41-36 loss to Toledo in the Mid-American Conference championship game that ended the Thundering Herd's four-year reign as league champion.
"(That loss) helped us out to realize that (coming back is) a possibility," Leftwich said. "We were in that sitiuation last week, but we were on the other side."
East Carolina (6-6) got a reprieve when Curtis Head missed the extra point wide right.
"I told Curtis that we're going to need you to win the game," Pruett said. "We figure you're going to have to kick a field goal or extra point."
The Thundering Herd got the first possession of overtime and took a 58-51 lead on Frank Wallace's two-yard run. The Pirates needed only one play to pull even as Travis Henry scored on a 25-yard dash.
The leading rusher in Conference USA, Henry ran for 195 yards and three touchdowns on 29 carries.
East Carolina got the ball first in the second overtime but had to settle for Kevin Miller's 37-yard field goal.
Leftwich went to work again, hitting Denero Marriott for 21 yards to the 4. After a pair of running plays lost four yards, Leftwich found Davis in the middle of the end zone for the winning score.
The 6-5, 230-pound Leftwich and Fresno State's David Carr were the only quarterbacks in Division I-A to pass for more than 4,000 yards during the regular season. Some say the junior is more talented than former Marshall quarterback Chad Pennington, who was drafted by the New York Jets.
"Byron is an awfully good player," Logan said. "I hope the young man stays in school, it could really help him. He could be a very high-round draft pick."
Marshall had trouble holding onto the ball in the first half as East Carolina converted four turnovers into 21 points. Ty Hunt returned an interception 12 yards for a score and Jerome Steward rambled 43 yards with a fumble to give the Pirates a 14-0 lead just over three minutes into the contest.
But the Thundering Herd were a different team in the second half, outscoring the Pirates, 43-13. They also had a pair of defensive scores as Ralph Street and Terrance Tarpley returned interceptions for touchdowns in a 28-point third quarter.
Marshall, which never led until overtime, closed within 44-42 on Leftwich's 30-yard TD pass to Marriott with 6:15 left but could not tie as the conversion pass failed. Marriott grabbed 15 passes for 234 yards.
East Carolina answered just over a minute later on Henry's 55-yard TD run before the Thundering Herd closed to 51-45 on Head's 27-yard field goal with 1:53 to go.
Marshall's hopes appeared over when East Carolina recovered an offside kick, but the Thundering Herd got back the ball after using its final two timeouts and Leftwich completed four passes during the tying drive.
David Garrard completed 11-of-23 passes for 161 yards for East Carolina.