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Marshall still the king of Motor City

Marshall showed there's life after Randy Moss and Chad Pennington.

The Thundering Herd beat Cincinnati 25-14 Wednesday in the Motor City Bowl in front of 26,018 at the Silverdome, giving Marshall a three-game winning streak in the bowl since it lost the inaugural game in 1997.

"I hope you never get tired of us coming," Marshall coach Bob Pruett said.

Marshall won six of its last seven games in what was expected to be a rebuilding year after Pennington graduated. Moss, who played for the Thundering Herd for two years, is in his third NFL season.

"One guy don't make a football team," Pruett said. "Certainly, we've had some great players here. But we've won 58 games in five years. One or two guys don't do that."

Marshall may not have big-name players now, but it thinks it will have one in sophomore quarterback Byron Leftwich.

Leftwich threw a 77-yard touchdown on the fourth play of the game and rushed for a score, making up for two turnovers in the second quarter. Leftwich was 17-for-30 for 221 yards and earned the game's Most Valuable Player award.

"I always felt that I was a good quarterback and the last two years I've been behind a great one in Chad," Leftwich said. "I just had to wait my turn and get a chance. I think today I really showed what I could do, and I am proud to lead a continually proud line of Marshall quarterbacks."

Cincinnati, which won its last four regular-season games, played in its second bowl since 1951. Deontey Kenner was 19-for-39 for 189 yards with two interceptions, and DeMarco McCleskey rushed for 72 yards and two touchdowns.

"Today's defeat is just a setback and is not detrimental to the program," Cincinnati coach Rick Minter said. "This is the best team I've had here at Cincinnati in terms of character and playing ability."

Marshall scored touchdowns on its first two drives of the second half after Cincinnati went three and out on consecutive possessions. The Thundering Herd sealed the win on a 25-yard field goal from J.R. Jenkins with 43 seconds left.

Cincinnati stalled at the Thundering Herd 44 late in the third quarter and at its 41 midway through the fourth quarter when it had a chance to tie.

The Bearcats also got the ball back at their 9 with 3:02 left, but they were unable to get a first down after three passes were deflected near the line of scrimmage.

The flow of the game was interrupted by 25 penalties for 190 yards.

"I think the penalties killed us," Kenner said.

The Thundering Herd said Cincinnati talked a lot of trash before, during and after the game.

"They're just like Florida State," McCleskey said.

Marshall took a 7-0 lead when Leftwich connected with Darius Watts for the 77-yard touchdown. Leftwich threw the ball about 20 yards, and Watts raced through the Bearcats defense the rest of the way.

"Once you get the ball in that guy's hands, there's not too many guys that can catch him," Leftwich said.

The Bearcats also scored on their first possession when McCleskey dove for a 1-yard touchdown.

Marshall's Michael Owens, who was named the game's top lineman, eluded a blocker and tackled Ray Jackson for a safety to give the Thundering Herd a 9-7 lead late in the first quarter.

Leftwich threw an interception and fumbled in Marshall territory on consecutive possessions in the second quarter.

The Bearcats scored after the second turnover to take a 14-9 lead with 1:44 left in the half. On fourth and 1, McCleskey took an option pitch and ran in easily for a 2-yard touchdown.

Marshall also scored on its first possession of the second half on Leftwich's 1-yard sneak.

Frank Wallace, who rushed for 78 yards, capped an 11-play drive with a 4-yard run to put Marshall ahead 22-14, as Leftwich was 6-of-7 for 54 yards during the 56-yard drive.

Around the nation

ARKANSAS: Coach Houston Nutt dismissed Derrick Johnson from the team after Johnson's confrontation with an assistant coach during the Las Vegas Bowl on Thursday. Teammates had to restrain Johnson during an argument with Bill Johnson during the final minutes of the Razorback's 31-14 loss to UNLV.

GEORGIA: New coach Mark Richt turned to a familiar name as the first member of his staff, keeping Rodney Garner as defensive line coach and recruiting coordinator. Richt announced the decision one day after he was formally introduced as coach. He met with Garner before heading to Miami, where Richt will continue as Florida State's offensive coordinator through the Orange Bowl.

SOUTHERN MISS: Coach Jeff Bower says he intends to end his career with the Golden Eagles. Bower, 48, told the Sun Herald of Gulfport/Biloxi that he has not been interested in any other jobs, including Georgia. "There was a lot of speculation, but I never pursued the Georgia job. I had two conversations (one on Dec. 18) with Vince Dooley (Georgia athletic director) and I told him I was not interested and I wished him the best in his search," Bower said.

OBITUARY: John Coatta, a quarterback at Wisconsin from 1949-51 and coach from 1967-69, died Tuesday in Minnetonka, Minn., from bone cancer. He was 71. His son, Jeff Coatta, said he remained active until the last three months of his life despite a seven-year battle with the disease.

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