HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (AP) -- Bruce Gradkowski accomplished in his
third career start what only one other quarterback has done since
1996 -- beat Marshall at home.
Gradkowski threw two touchdown passes and reserve Astin Martin
scored on a 10-yard run with 1:10 to play to give Toledo a 24-17
victory over the Thundering Herd on Friday night.
The game between the only teams to win the Mid-American
Conference championship the past six seasons meant little in the
standings since they are from different divisions.
Yet this was a statement game for Toledo (2-1), which beat
Marshall (1-2) for the third time in four years.
The Rockets are the only team with more than one win over
Marshall since the Thundering Herd returned to the league in 1997.
Marshall is 50-2 at home since Bob Pruett became coach seven
years ago. Western Michigan beat the Thundering Herd in 2000.
"It's tough to come up with a win for anybody in this
stadium," Toledo coach Tom Amstutz said. "Marshall has a lot of
tradition and pride. We also had to match their enthusiasm and
pride. It's just believing in ourselves and getting the job done."
Marshall self-destructed with five turnovers in quarterback
Graham Gochneaur's first start. Toledo had none.
"The defense kept us in it and we are thankful for that,"
Gradkowski said. "Every year it is back and forth, back and
The young quarterbacks made this one of the lowest-scoring
contests in the teams' seven previous meetings. They had averaged
85 points combined in their previous two games.
The last time Marshall was held to this few points was a 49-14
loss to Florida in the 2001 season opener.
Gradkowski, a sophomore, was erratic but came up big down the
stretch. He took the Rockets downfield after Toledo's Paul Dye
recovered a fumble by Butchie Wallace at the Rockets 44 with 6:41
Gradkowski converted a fourth-down run at the Marshall 29.
Sophomore Trinity Dawson, who led all rushers with 156 yards, ran
for 17 on the next three plays before Martin, another sophomore,
"When we needed it, it counted," said Gradkowski, who finished
10-of-20 for 147 yards.
Marshall, which beat Toledo in the 2002 MAC title game on Darius
Watts' last-minute touchdown catch, couldn't come up big in the
closing seconds this time.
Marshall moved the ball to the Toledo 47, but a holding call
negated a pass from Gochneaur to Watts. Gochneaur's desperation
pass on the final play was intercepted by Patrick Body at the
Gochneaur, a junior, fared well in place of the injured Stan
Hill but couldn't produce any points over the game's final 20
"Graham played well enough for us to win," Pruett said. "I
thought he did a good job. He was put in some tough situations. You
can't turn the ball over five times against a good football team
Gochneaur finished 31-of-39 for 289 yards with two
interceptions. His 11-yard scramble set up a 22-yard TD pass to a
wide-open Watts for a 17-14 lead late in the third quarter.
"It was simply a game of missed opportunities," Gochneaur
said. "I finally started to get comfortable and everything started
to feel real fluid. Unfortunately, we stopped ourselves when we got
the momentum going."
Hill did not dress for the game after injuring his knee last
week in a 34-24 loss at Tennessee. He's also questionable for
Marshall's game next week at No. 7 Kansas State.
After Watts' score, Toledo nearly squandered Dawson's 58-yard
run on the next series. Gradkowski recovered Martin's fumble on
third down, and Jason Robbins kicked a 37-yard field goal to tie
the score at 17.