When Marshall's Chad Pennington finally got adjusted, Ohio combusted.
The victory kept the Thundering Herd (11-0, 8-0 Mid-American) among the few undefeated teams in Division I-A. Marshall ran its winning streaks to 15 games overall and 30 at home, both tops among major colleges.
Pennington's three TDs gave him 34 on the season, tops among major college quarterbacks. He completed 25 of 37 passes as Marshall scored 34 unanswered points after falling behind for just the third time all season.
"Chad does everything. He's got good ability, field presence and leadership. He does it all," said Ohio coach Jim Grobe. "I'll be glad to see him play in the NFL."
Friday's game meant little in the standings for the Thundering Herd, who had already clinched the MAC's East Division and a spot in next week's championship game in Huntington against Western Michigan, which Marshall beat 31-17 two weeks ago.
Yet Marshall was trying to avoid the same lull that occurred a year ago when it nearly blew 22-point lead to Division I-AA Wofford the week before the MAC title game.
The Thundering Herd held the nation's fifth-best rushing offense to 112 yards, 165 below its average.
Ohio (5-6, 5-3) got only Kevin Kerr's 53-yard field goal in the first quarter against a defense which allows the fewest points in the nation at 10.1 per game.
"This is the toughest defense we have played," said Ohio tailback Chad Brinker. "We came out today and just couldn't get anything done."
Pennington appeared frustrated early when Ohio's defense showed several different coverage formations. Marshall gained just 32 yards on its first four possessions, while Pennington was sacked twice and he fumbled once.
After a timeout early in the second quarter, Pennington drove Marshall 58 yards with four straight completions, including a 29-yard toss to David Foye for a 7-3 lead.
"That field goal was a wakeup call," Pennington said. "We don't like when we get scored on first. Offensively, we had to get it together."
On Marshall's next possession, Pennington completed 7 of 9 passes, including a 7-yarder to Lanier Washington on fourth-and-2 at the Ohio 21. On fourth-and-goal, Doug Chapman capped the 17-play, 83-yard drive with a 1-yard TD run.
"I didn't play very good in the first half," Pennington said. "They mixed up their blitzes really well. But our guys hung in there. We went back to some basic stuff, moved the pocket around a little bit. It was better execution, really."
Chapman said the difference was Pennington.
"They were doing a lot to mess up our running game. They disguised their coverages," Chapman said. "A lot of quarterbacks would have crumbled under all that and could not have made adjustments. But he came out in the second half and called plays from the line that was confusing them."
Chapman, who finished with 74 yards rushing, finished off another 83-yard drive with an 8-yard TD run in the third quarter for a 20-3 lea.
Pennington hit James Williams with TD tosses of 18 and 71 yards in the fourth quarter.
"I thought coming in today that Marshall was the best football team we would play, and I still do," said Grobe, whose had two early-season losses at Minnesota and Ohio State. "They are capable of beating anybody. It would be nice to see them get that opportunity."
The winner of the Dec. 3 MAC title game gets an automatic berth in the Motor City Bowl against an at-large opponent on Dec. 27 in Pontiac, Mich. Marshall is seeking its third straight MAC title.
"Right now we can't worry about what people think as far as bowl games and rankings," Pennington said. "We have another game to play."
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