"It was vital," remarked head coach Jon Stockman following the Owls' 27-6 non-conference home win Friday over Truman of Independence. "I'm real proud of our kids. They worked hard all week."
There was no trickery, sleight of hand or flim-flamming by Marshall, which ran straight at the Patriots in smash-mouth style -- not even attempting a pass until the second half. The Owls scored on their first two possessions, both 10-play drives, and never trailed.
Senior Marc Plummer sliced through the defense for 24 yards and senior Alex Maupin bootlegged around the left end for 12 during the first series -- which was capped by junior Tyler Cott's first touchdown of the season on a 4-yard run.
Marshall didn't face a third down on its opening drive, but converted three of them on its second one. After a holding penalty set the Owls back 10 yards, Maupin slipped through a seam on the right side and sprinted 52 yards to make it 12-0.
"If it's not broke, don't fix it," Stockman described the offensive approach, which racked up 336 rushing yards. "The offensive line did a good job, the backs did a good job and Maupin did a good job running the offense."
Marshall continued to move the ball, but its old bugaboos -- turnovers and penalties -- slowed it down. Senior Scott Agee forced a fumble which gave Truman the ball on the Owls' 34-yard line, then caught a 13-yard pass from sophomore Alex Ryan to set up a 10-yard touchdown reception by senior Alex Davis.
"We've got to hang on to the ball," Stockman said. "I'm just glad it didn't hurt us."
After Plummer's 43-yard kick return, Marshall faced third down and two yards to go from the Patriots' 46-yard line when an illegal procedure penalty ruined the drive.
The Owls held Truman to three downs and out during its first two possessions of the second half. After one Marshall drive stalled in Patriots territory, the second produced five first downs and consumed nearly five minutes of the third quarter with 11 snaps. Plummer picked up 16 yards and Maupin gained 13 before Cott barged into the end zone from four yards out.
"It was vital to get two scores ahead, play good defense and move the chains when we were on offense," Stockman said.
Agree ran a reverse for 19 yards and hauled in a 16-yard pass as Truman reached the Owls' 16-yard line midway through the final frame, but Plummer came up with back-to-back sacks -- forcing a fumble recovered by senior Berry Benedick with the second one -- to snuff the threat.
Cott came up with his second sack on the Patriots' next series, which ended with an interception by senior Brandon Johnson near midfield with four minutes remaining.
Plummer capped a seven-play drive with a 17-yard touchdown run, his seventh of the season, with 48 seconds left. Despite Agee receptions of 20 and 29 yards, Truman (1-6) ran out of time before it could score.
Maupin topped the century mark for the fourth time with 137 rushing yards and Plummer reached that goal for the fifth time with 134 yards. None of the Owls' 54 runs failed to gain yardage, a tribute to an offensive line which controlled the pits.
Even with the 10 bonus points added for playing a Class 5 opponent, Marshall (5-2) remained fifth in the Class 4, District 6 seedings, although closed to within 2.76 points of No. 4 Moberly -- which lost at Hannibal, 34-22.
The fifth-ranked and undefeated Pirates visit Cecil Naylor Field this week in what could prove the biggest game of the Owls' surprising season.
"They're a great ball club," Stockman noted. "We're going to prepare for them, fight them and hopefully get a win."