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Updated: Saturday, December 7, 2002 9:12 PM EST
NCAA FOOTBALL RECAP
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Marshall 49, Toledo 45
TOLEDO ROCKETS
Toledo Rockets
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MARSHALL THUNDERING HERD
Marshall Thundering Herd
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HUNTINGTON, West Virginia (Ticker) -- Thanks to another memorable game by Byron Leftwich, Marshall took back the MAC.

Leftwich threw for 404 yards and four touchdowns, including a 40-yard strike to Darius Watts with 40 seconds remaining, as Marshall rallied for a 49-45 victory over Toledo in a fight-marred Mid-American Conference Championship game.

Marshall (10-2) won the league title for the fifth time in six seasons, regaining the crown it had lost with a 41-36 loss to Toledo last season.

The Thundering Herd built an 18-point lead in the second quarter but twice had to rally from fourth-quarter deficits.

Leftwich, a Heisman Trophy candidate, threw a 16-yard TD pass to Watts midway through the fourth quarter to give Marshall a 42-39 lead with 7:51 remaining.

Toledo took its last lead at 45-42 on a one-yard run by quarterback Brian Jones with 3:35 left. But the PAT failed, preventing the Rockets from attempting a field goal in the final seconds.

Marshall moved into position for the go-ahead score with the help of a pass interference call on 3rd-and-15 from its own 45. Leftwich, who completed 32-of-42 passes and was intercepted once, responded with a TD pass over the middle to Watts.

Leftwich played with a sore shin that has been bothered him for the past month and also bounced back from a third-quarter hit by Toledo's David Gardner.

The hit by Gardner drew a personal foul and several Toledo players rushed the field. Both teams exchanged shoves before order was restored.

Watts caught nine passes for 135 yards and two scores.

Toledo drove to the Marshall 39 before Jones' pass into the end zone was knocked down as time expired.

The Thundering Herd overcame a huge game from Trinity Dawson, who carried 21 times for 130 yards and four scores.

Both teams already had accepted bowl bids. Marshall will play Louisville in the GMAC Bowl. Toledo will appear in the Motor City Bowl against an opponent to be determined.

Marshall built a 14-0 lead after one quarter on a 12-yard touchdown pass from Leftwich to Denero Marriott and a one-yard TD run by Franklin Wallace.

The Rockets cut the lead in half on a 38-yard TD run by Dawson before Marshall struck back with a nine-yard scoring run by Brandon Carey.

The Thundering Herd increased their lead to 28-10 when Duran Smith returned a fumble by Brian Jones 36 yards for a score.

Jones completed 23-of-36 passes for 221 yards.

A one-yard TD run by Toledo's Astin Martin with 11 seconds left in the first half cut the lead to 28-17 at halftime.

Dawson had TD runs of two and 10 yards in the third quarter to give Toledo its first lead at 32-28. Leftwich answered later in the quarter with a 28-yard TD pass to Denero Marriott, who had seven catches for 87 yards.

Saturday's contest was played on Marshall's home field, where the Thundering Herd won fourth straight league crowns from 1997-2000.


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