Marshall football players must have danced the night away with Hayden Panettiere following Friday's 45-14 NCMC victory over Fulton. Before over 1,000 fans, one of the largest home crowds in years, the Owls jumped out to an 18-0 first-half lead and never looked back.
"I don't think the stands were full, but hopefully we'll get there," remarked MHS head coach Jon Stockman. "My seniors told me that was the first Homecoming game they've won, so that's a good thing."
Marshall began the game with an 11-play, 68-yard drive, all on the ground, with senior Marc Plummer gaining 51 yards on seven carries -- capped by a 1-yard touchdown blast.
"We pounded it down their throats, forced them to load the box and then spread them out a little bit and went to some other things," Stockman said.
Slowing the Owls down early on, though, were penalties. They couldn't overcome an illegal block on their second series and were flagged for holding on the next one, but on fourth down and 8 yards to go senior Alex Maupin connected with sophomore Logan Harris with a 34-yard bomb.
That set up Maupin's 10-yard TD strike to senior Brandon Johnson.
"We got a little bit of a penalty bug back again," Stockman said, two weeks after Marshall was flagged 14 times during a 35-15 win over Mexico. "We've got to clean that stuff up."
Sophomore Devin Cott, who began the previous scoring drive with an interception, got his fifth pick of the season to return possession to the Owls near midfield. Marshall converted a pair of third downs, the second with a 21-yard catch by senior Austin Stickels, before Maupin bootlegged into the end zone from four yards out with 5:06 left in the half.
"We ask Devin to do a lot of different things back there" at safety, Stockman said. "He's best in Cover One and he's free and doesn't have a lot of responsibilities."
The Hornets got something going before the break, junior Joe Schlemeier completing three passes for 55 yards -- the last one a 23-yarder when a Marshall cornerback slipped -- to reach the 7-yard line. A week ago, the Owls made a goal-line stand at the end of the first half at Kirksville, and nearly did the same this time.
Junior Tyler Cott and senior Zarrick Williams tackled Fulton runners for losses, but on fourth down Schlemeier found senior Josh King for a 9-yard touchdown pass with 18 seconds remaining.
Maupin took over the game in the third quarter. Returning a punt for the first time this season following Johnson's ejection for spearing, Maupin opened with a 63-yard touchdown return. On Marshall's first possession, he went on a 59-yard dash to make it 31-7.
Senior Randall Cole bounced off a Marshall defender near the line on a bubble screen for a 54-yard gain to the MHS 6 and Schlemeier sneaked over from the 1, but Fulton's score was quickly answered.
On the Owls' second snap, Maupin hit Harris for a 45-yard touchdown. Marshall put the finishing touches on their win 12 seconds into the final frame on Plummer's 1-yard dive -- following his 21-yard run and a 16-yard gain by Maupin to begin the series.
"'Maup's' 'Maup.' He looks good running the ball downfield," Stockman said about his second-year starting quarterback, whose 331 all-purpose yards and five touchdowns led the Owls' effort. "Sometimes he just takes the ball and gets in the end zone."
Marshall's defense held the Hornets (0-5, 0-2 NCMC) to 194 total yards and first downs on only three of their 13 possessions. With Plummer rushing for over 100 yards for the fourth time, the Owls (4-1, 3-0) racked up 441 yards on offense -- the most since a 35-27 loss to Fulton in 2007. Marshall hadn't scored as many points since opening the '06 season with a 48-6 romp over Lincoln Prep.
The Owls take a three-game win streak into Friday's game at Moberly, where they last won in 2005. The Spartans are likewise 4-1 and unbeaten in league play.
"We're going to have to play more disciplined and clean up the penalties," Stockman asserted. "We've got to be ready to play."