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Western Michigan Broncos (7-4, 6-2 MAC) at #11 Marshall Thundering Herd (11-0, 8-0)
Dec. 3, 1999/8:00 p.m. (ET)
Marshall Stadium (30,000/Artificial Turf) Huntington, W.Va.
WMU leads 21-8
Marshall 31, WMU 17, Nov. 13, 1999
WMU-Gary Darnell (Oklahoma State 1970) 22-11, third year at WMU; 25-15, fourth year overall; Marshall-Bob Pruett (Marshall 1965) 48-4, fourth year.
Game Notes: Marshall appears in its third consecutive MAC championship game while the Broncos represent the MAC West in the title game for the first time ever. The Thundering Herd, one of three perfect teams in the nation at 11-0, are ranked #11 in the nation.
A win by Marshall would mark the third time in league history that a school has won three straight MAC championships. A win by Western would secure the school's third-ever MAC football championship (1988 and 1966). The winner of the game will go on to represent the league in the Motor City Bowl Dec. 27 at the Silverdome in Pontiac, Mich., versus an at-large opponent.
Both teams feature high-powered offenses and rank 1-2 in the league in scoring, Marshall first at 37.1 ppg and WMU second at 31.2. Defensively, Marshall is allowing a national best 9.5 points per game while WMU's opponents are scoring 28.0 ppg.
In addition, both teams are led by their quarterbacks. Marshall's Chad Pennington and Western's Tim Lester have combined for 6,872 passing yards and 66 passing touchdowns this season.
Att. Comp. Pct. Yards TDs Int. Effic.
Pennington 374 255 .682 3515 34 10 171.6
Lester 429 255 .594 3357 32 11 144.7
The respective running games feature solid tailbacks. Western's Robert Sanford has 929 rushing yards and seven touchdowns on 189 carries. Marshall's Doug Chapman has gained 611 yards and 10 touchdowns on 147 attempts.
Speedy wide receivers accentuate both offenses. WMU's Steve Neal is tied for first in the MAC in touchdown receptions (11), tied for second in receptions (66) and fifth in receiving yards (1,008). Marshall's Nate Poole is tied for second in receptions (66), is third in receiving yards (1,036) and has eight touchdown catches. The Herd's James Williams leads the MAC with 12 touchdown receptions and is eighth in receiving yards (786).
WMU linebacker Scott Niles ranks fourth in the MAC in tackles with 128. The Herd's tackle leader is linebacker John Grace with 101. Marshall has two defensive backs who are tied for fourth in the MAC interceptions with four, Rogers Beckett and Danny Derricott.
In an earlier meeting this year, Marshall defeated WMU 31-17 in Kalamazoo. Pennington completed 27-of-40 passes for 339 yards and two touchdowns while Doug Chapman added 108 rushing yards and two touchdowns. Lester completed 24-of-43 passes for 193 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions. WMU was limited to 54 rushing yards by the Herd defense.
Did You Know...
If Marshall wins against Western Michigan in the MAC championship game and Dec. 27 in the Motor City Bowl, the Herd would finish the season with a perfect 13-0 mark. That would make Marshall head coach Bob Pruett the only coach ever to go undefeated and win a national championship at the I-AA level (15-0 in 1996) and have a perfect season with a bowl win at the I-A level. Former Marshall head coach Jim Donnan is the only other head coach to win both a I-AA national championship (1992 at Marshall) and a bowl game (Outback 1/1/98 and Peach 12/31/98 at Georgia).
If Western Michigan wins against Marshall, the Broncos will advance to their first bowl since the 1988 California Raisin Bowl, a 35-20 loss to Fresno State. WMU head coach Gary Darnell served as the interim head coach at Florida and coached the Gators in the 1989 Freedom Bowl, a 34-7 loss to Washington, coached by Don James. James coached at Kent from 1971-74 prior to going to Washington.