Friday, December 30, 2011
Remember '70: Team gave its all from start to finish
When Marshall University suffered a gut-wrenching 17-14 road loss to East Carolina in 1970, nobody knew that it would be the Herd’s final game for that season.
A few hours after the conclusion of the East Carolina game, Marshall’s chartered jet crashed as it approached the runway at Tri-State Airport in Huntington, West Virginia. There were no survivors.
The sadness, dismay and the shock of such a horrific event are all too obvious. Those memories from November 14, 1970 are still painful for so many people. But there’s also another side to that coin. In reviewing how the Marshall-East Carolina game played out, there’s consolation in realizing how the ’70 team gave everything it had to give until the very end.
Here’s how it all went down:
Marshall trailed by a field goal with about 90 seconds left to play in the game. Quarterback Ted Shoebridge commandeered a final drive that reached ECU’s 25-yard line, which was within the range of place-kicker Marcello Latjerman.
With a little over 30 seconds remaining, there was still enough time to reach the end zone for the game-winning score. Keep in mind that back then, college football did not have overtime. Games that ended in a stalemate at the end of regulation were declared ties.
On third-and-10 from the ECU 25, Shoebridge was flushed from the pocket and he threw a pass to running back Art Harris, who fielded the low throw on the first bounce. What happened next was a call that probably cost the Herd its best chances for pulling this one out in the closing seconds. Even though the under-thrown pass landed in close proximity to an eligible receiver, the officials called Shoebridge for intentional grounding.
Instead of fourth-and-10 and a possible field goal attempt, Marshall faced a fourth-and-34 from midfield. Shoebridge’s next pass attempt fell incomplete which sealed the win for East Carolina.
This game was really a microcosm of Marshall’s season. The Herd finished the year at 3-6. But the win-loss record doesn’t tell the complete story. In four of MU’s losses, the average margin of defeat was 3 ½ points. That in itself reveals a lot about the ’70 team. The Herd’s record could easily have been 7-2. This was certainly a sign that better days were coming soon.
But then there was the plane crash, followed by the burying of MU’s dead and the painstaking process of systematically restoring a decimated football program.