The Owls gave the ball away five times and were hit by 12 flags for 132 yards Friday during a 41-12 NCMC loss at Moberly, which scored three unanswered touchdowns during the final 13 minutes to break open what had been a competitive contest.
"The wheels kind of fell off there late," admitted Marshall head coach Jon Stockman after watching his team's win streak snapped at three games.
Neither team picked up a first down on its first two possessions, but then the Owls appeared to get its offense going -- although three penalties prevented a sustained drive. Referee Gary Anspaugh's crew came up with creative ways to whistle the visitors, including a rare downfield block in the back on the punt coverage unit.
Marshall fumbled on its next snap, the Spartans recovering only 40 yards from the goal line. Junior Justin Connaway connected with senior Jalen Troy for 26 yards and then ran in the ball from three yards out.
However, the Owls struck back quickly, beginning their next series with a 64-yard touchdown run by senior Alex Maupin. A botched extra point kept Moberly in front, 7-6.
Marshall caught a break on senior Jake Dillon's interception, but a penalty prevented a drive from getting started.
Connaway passed to senior Brandon Elkins for 14 yards and junior Blake Joiner for 22 to set up sophomore Gregg Bain's tackle-breaking 28-yard touchdown dash with 2:25 left in the half.
"We had some miss tackles and missed assignments," Stockman said, "but we've got to do a better job when the ball's in our hands and move the chains."
The Spartans got another chance before the break when Elkins picked off a pass and returned it 35 yards to the Marshall 18, but the Owls' defense held firm.
Moberly began the third period with a 12-play, 65-yard drive, with no gain more than 10 yards and a fourth-down conversion. Bain blasted in for 3-yard score.
Marshall answered by going 57 yards on 11 plays, the first two being Maupin runs of 15 and 12 yards. Despite two major penalties, the Owls kept coming -- finally getting a call in its favor, for pass interference. Maupin rolled in from the four to narrow the margin to 20-12.
Joiner's 36-yard kick return and a 32-yard run by senior Joe Galaske got the Spartans to the Marshall 1-yard line. Although sophomore Logan Harris dropped Galaske for a 4-yard loss, Elkins caught a third-down pass in the end zone with 11 seconds to go in the third frame.
Elkins came up with another big play 26 seconds later, jumping a slant pass for an interception and 35-yard touchdown return.
Junior Jeff Kinder ruined the Owls' next series with a sack, and Moberly recovered a fumble on the next play when Maupin's option pitch went to a back who wasn't there.
The Spartans tacked on an insurance score with six minutes remaining on Connaway's 40-yard run. The last three Marshall possessions ended on two punts -- one after an earned first down wasn't awarded on a pair of dead-ball fouls at the end of senior Marc Plummer's 16-yard run -- and Elkins' second interception of the game.
Connaway finished with 194 yards in total offense and three touchdowns for Moberly (5-1, 3-0 NCMC), which has won five straight.
Maupin ran for 104 yards and junior Tyler Cott made 11 tackles for the Owls (4-2, 3-1), who remain the fifth seed in the Class 4, District 6 standings. They could have a rematch with Moberly, currently seeded fourth, later this season.
Meanwhile, Marshall returns home Friday for a contest against Class 5 Truman.
"I just told the kids, 'You've got to keep your heads up, keep working hard and try to get a little better every day,'" Stockman said.