Thursday, December 22, 2011

Bowl games: More than a measure of satisfaction

Marshall brought some thunder on its bowl trip to Florida. (
        As someone who can remember way back when, being a witness to Marshall’s football team making headway in 21st century post-season play is beyond exhilarating—it’s downright euphoric.
       The Thundering Herd whipped allegedly-superior Florida International by a count of 20-10 in the Beef ‘O’Brady’s Bowl on national television Tuesday night. In doing so, MU defied all the odd-makers along with all the supposedly-astute prognosticators.
       For me, this was more than gaining a measure of satisfaction. I remember a time when MU was on its way to reaching a point where the program could routinely compete for bowl championships and the nation’s top high school talent. But a major recruiting scandal in ’69, followed by the plane crash the following year, set things back and it took more than a decade for Herd football get fully back on track.
       Yet, even during those lean seasons in ’69 and ’70, Marshall had its share of blue-chippers, several whom were NFL-caliber athletes. The Herd had enough players with enough of a skill set to help put the school on the football map a lot sooner than the ‘90s when MU emerged as the winningest college team of that decade.
       In spite of the bad times, in spite of the trials, in spite of the disappointments, the program continued.  Through sheer perseverance, the Herd eventually turned losing skids into winning streaks.
       That’s a quantum turnaround for a program that used to be everybody’s designated Homecoming opponent. When I played defensive back for the Herd in ’69, I saw more than my share of floats, parade endings and Homecoming queens.
       For a long time, I wondered if I would ever see the day when Marshall would be good enough to play a post-season game in football. Now that it’s happened—MU is 7-2 in bowl games since 1997—I push the rewind button in my memory and think about those days in the late ‘60s when the Herd started to recruit a large number of players from the Deep South.
       Because of the scandal and the plane crash, the players from back in the day didn’t get the opportunity to play for championships. But now, it’s a totally different scenario. Watching the Herd do battle in bowl games represents a vision that has finally been fulfilled. The MU teams of today have made good on the dreams and hopes of those MU teams of yesteryear, who were on a mission to transform the Herd from being a perennial pushover to being a formidable force.     
       Thank you Thundering Herd.

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