AKRON, Ohio (Ticker) -- Byron Leftwich's heroic return was not enough for Marshall to avoid its first loss to Akron in 25 years.
Bobby Hendry ran for 120 yards and Charlie Frye threw one touchdown and ran for another as the Zips posted their first Mid-American Conference victory of the season, a 34-20 triumph over the 25th-ranked Herd.
Marshall received a devastating blow in the second quarter when Leftwich left the game with an injury to his lower left leg. The Heisman Trophy candidate suffered the injury when he was hit while throwing a pass in the first quarter and led the Herd to a touchdown before leaving.
Despite reports that he would not return, Leftwich came back in the third quarter following a trip to the hospital. He was limping noticeably and was even carried to the line of scrimmage by his offensive lineman on some plays.
"At the hospital his shin was just X-rayed," Marshall coach Bob Pruett said. "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."
Leftwich completed 14-of-24 passes for 108 yards after returning and finished 26-of-38 for 307 yards. The Herd outgained the Zips, 420-288, but committed a season-high seven turnovers, including five fumbles.
Akron (2-7, 1-4 MAC) never relinquished the lead after scoring 17 points in the second quarter. Brandon Payne's one-yard touchdown run gave the Zips the lead for good at 14-10 and Frye connected with Mike Brake on a 28-yard score with 2:24 left for a 24-10 halftime lead.
Marshall (6-2, 4-1) scored on the first drive since Leftwich's return to pull within 27-17 at 4:12 of the third. But Frye had a 26-yard touchdown run in the final minute of the quarter and the Zips held on for their first victory over the Herd since November 5, 1977.
"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. "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."
Akron was held under 400 offensive yards for the first time in six games by Marshall's defense, which leads the conference in scoring defense, pass defense and total defense.
Marshall had a five-game winning streak snapped and lost to Akron for the first time since rejoining the Mid-American Conference in 1997. The Herd lost for just the third time in 10 all-time meetings with the Zips.
"We didn't have anything to play for and they had everything to play for," Owens said. "Our players understood that. I wouldn't let them take the field until I was convinced that they understood what we were talking about and how we had to play this game."
Akron had a 27-10 cushion when Leftwich returned with 8:30 remaining in the third quarter. Marshall was facing a 2nd-and-32 and Leftwich threw an incompletion, but linebacker Josh Hill was whistled for personal foul after hitting the quarterback late.
The Herd drove inside the Zips' 5 but three running plays failed to scored. Marshall set up for a field goal, but Akron jumped offsides to put the ball at the half-yard line. Franklin Wallace dove into the end zone for his second touchdown to bring Marshall within 27-17.
But the Zips responded with a seven-play, 61-yard drive capped by Frye's sixth rushing touchdown of the season.
Akron jumped out to a 7-0 lead in the first quarter after cornerback Ricky McKenzie returned a fumble 98 yards for a touchdown. It was the second longest fumble return in school history and longest since 1902.