"It was bad," admitted Owls head coach Jon Stockman. "Too many turnovers to win a ball game, I don't care who you're playing."
Marshall is minus-11 in turnover margin during its four losses and plus-three in its five wins. This doesn't include the opening kickoff, a squib which the Pirates recovered at the MHS 36-yard line.
Fortunately, that didn't end up costing the Owls, who put together a nine-play series when they got possession. A pass interference penalty moved them to the Boonville 39-yard line, but the drive ended when senior Gus Kemp hauled down the first of his two interceptions.
The Pirates gave the ball right back on a strip by junior Tyler Cott, but Marshall was stopped on downs at the home team's 23-yard line.
Boonville picked up 30 yards on 10 plays, but were forced to punt from midfield. Junior Tyler Peterson intercepted a pass, but the Pirates couldn't do anything with the possession which began in opposing territory.
With 6:24 left in the half, the Owls staged their most sustained drive of the game, picking up yardage in small chunks to for 32 yards in 12 plays. However, on second down and 7 yards to go from the Boonville 29, senior Jalen Poindexter sacks senior Alex Maupin -- jarring loose the ball, recovered by senior James Barnhart at the 40-yard line.
With only 51 seconds to go before the break, the Pirates needed to cover a lot of ground rapidly. Using senior Jared Oser's two sideline passes for 16 yards and senior Damario Walker's 16-yard third-down run -- along with its two remaining timeouts -- Boonville got itself within striking distance.
With a defender on his back, Kemp caught a 19-yard strike from Oser on the goal line with three seconds left to break the scoreless tie.
"We're in good position, but we've got to make a play on the ball," Stockman said.
Marshall stopped the Pirates on their first two possessions of the second half, but then Barnhart stepped in front of a Maupin pass and returned it 32 yards for a touchdown.
"That screen play, we thought it was there," Stockman said. "That outside 'backer did a great job ... and made a heck of a play."
The Owls answered quickly when Maupin hooked up with sophomore Logan Harris, who got a downfield block by senior Brandon Johnson which sprung him for a 62-yard TD dash -- the team's longest pass completion of the season.
Oser carried the ball four times for 44 yards, the last one for 30 yards to the end zone.
There were still over 10 minutes left for Marshall to try to overcome a two-score deficit, but less than a minute later Kemp picked off a pass and raced 68 yards for a backbreaking touchdown.
The Pirates (5-4, 4-2 NCMC) chewed up four-and-a-half minutes on their next possession, which included a 28-yard run by senior Kesley Callaway, to salt away their fifth straight win over the Birds.
The Owls continued to pile up injuries. With senior tight ends Zach Bishop and Austin Stickels out, the position became depleted when senior Darion Lawrence and Harris were sidelined. It made Marshall seem out of sync as the game wore on.
"We're got to do a better job getting No. 2s ready to go," Stockman said. "We started with four pretty good tight ends, and we didn't have any left."
Marshall (5-4, 3-3) lost back-to-back games for the first time this season, but it didn't effect the final seeding for the Class 4, District 6 Tournament. The Owls will still head to Moberly on Friday for a rematch of 41-12 loss a month earlier in which they also turned the ball over five times.
"We're not going to change much, get fancy, because that's not our game, that's not who we are," Stockman asserted. "But we're going to have to be more prepared."