HUNTINGTON W. VA. - One play can turn a game around -- or so they say, and it seemed to happen Saturday afternoon as the Akron Zips battled Marshall.
The hosts already owned a 21-7 lead and were looking for more early in the second period. Thundering Herd quarterback Chase Litton went back to pass and was sacked by junior Deon-Tay Moore, causing a fumble. Fifth-year senior Demauntas Venkus recovered and raced 35 yards for a touchdown.
That play started . . .
The win was the first on the road for Akron (2-1) in 2016 and third in their last four away from home dating back to last season. In addition, it was the Zips first ever win over Marshall in Huntington.
Marshall (1-1) suffered their first home loss of the season after routing Morgan State in their season opener 62-0.
“It’s obvious we did not play well,” Herd head man Doc Holliday said. “We have to give Akron credit. That staff did a great job of having that team ready to play. You can’t turn the ball over, and you can’t be penalized as much as we were to have a shot in that game.”
The Zips offense had another sparkling day, amassing 524 yards of total offense while scoring the second most points in school history.
Junior quarterback Thomas Woodson completed 21-of-32 passes for 379 yards and four touchdowns. Fifth year senior JoJo Natson had seven catches for 134 yards and a score, while junior Jerome Lane also had seven receptions for 115 yards.
The biggest surprise of the day was the running game. Playing without their top two running backs. Senior Warren Ball and sophomore Van Edwards (out with injuries), junior Manny Morgan stepped in and had a career day with 130 yards on 18 carries.
The rest of the opening quarter belonged to the Thundering Herd as Litton, who passed for 413 yards and four touchdowns, engineered three straight touchdown drives to build that 21-7 lead.
After the sack by Moore and the touchdown by Venkus, the game totally turned in favor of the Akron Blue and Gold.
It started on their second possession of the period. After a punt, the offense went 63 yards in seven plays as Woodson found Natson on a simple go-pattern down the right sideline for a touchdown to tie the score 21-21.
UA took the lead for good on MU’s next possession. When Marshall was forced to punt, junior Zach Guiser blocked Kaare Vedvik’s boot. Sophomore Ulysses Gilbert III scooped up the ball and raced 30 yards for the score and a 27-21 lead.
Later in the quarter, Guiser made his second big play of the stanza as he intercepted a Litton pass (one of four on the day by the Marshall signal caller) returning the ball to the Zips UA 36.
From there, it took just two plays for the offense to again find the end zone. Woodson connected with sophomore WR Kwardarrius Smith over the middle for 30 yards and his first collegiate touchdown.
Before the first half ended, Litton was intercepted again, this time by sophomore safety Kyron Brown who set the offense up at the MU 11.
Fourth-year junior Tra’Von Chapman came in for Woodson at quarterback and in just four plays, all runs by Chapman, scored the Zips fifth and final touchdown of the quarter as he carried the ball on an option play one yard for the score.
The Zips only points of the third quarter came on a seven play-75 yard drive. Woodson threw his fourth and final touchdown pass of the game as WR Austin Wolf snagged a deflected aerial and took it into the end zone.
Akton put up three more scores in the final frame. The first followed an MU field goal on a nine-play 75-yard march. Woodson on the option scampered three yards for the score.
PK Tom O’ Leary made a 26 yard field goal, set by a 61-yard run by Morgan. Junior LB Demarcus Lloyd completed the day's scoring when he came up with a Litton pass and raced 31 yards for the TD.
Over the 60 minutes, both teams combined for 103 total points and 1,084 yards of total offense. They also combined for 30 total penalties and 316 yards.
The Zips complete the non-conference portion of their schedule next Saturday when the Mountaineers from Appalachian State come into InfoCision Stadium. The visitors from the Sun Belt Conference will head into the game at 1-2 losing at home to Miami (Fla) on Saturday.