Thursday, December 8, 2011

Wichita State Shockers also know the pain .. Part 2

       Marshall University and Wichita State University will always be forever linked because of tragic situations involving the loss of their football teams. Certainly, there are so many similarities in comparing the horrible chain of events these schools were involved in over forty years ago. By the same token, there are unique differences.
'70 Memorial at Wichita State (photo courtesy of WSU)
       For example, one school finished its season and the other school didn’t. That’s not a knock on Marshall. It’s more reflective of the timing of the tragedies. At the time of the MU crash (November 14, 1970), the Herd had just one game left on the schedule.
       Even though most of the players who left over from the crash wanted to play Ohio University, it wasn’t going to happen. There were still funerals to attend on that same weekend when that game was scheduled to be played. Not only that, but it was unimaginable how anyone could find a way to focus on football so soon after such a devastating turn of events. And anyway, it’s highly unlikely that Ohio U. would’ve agreed to play the game.
       That’s not how things transpired for Wichita State. At the time of that crash (October 2, 1970), the Shockers were 0-3 and had not reached the midpoint of their season. The remaining players voted 76-1 in favor of playing out the rest of the schedule, which was often referred to as the “Second Season.”
       The NCAA helped out by lifting its ban on freshmen playing varsity football. Three weeks after the tragedy, Wichita State was back in action­­—on the road—against Arkansas, ranked ninth in the nation. The Shockers started 10 sophomores and seven freshmen against the Razorbacks and they paid the price in suffering a 62-0 whipping. None of the players who survived the crash played in that game.
       Arkansas coach Frank Broyles showed mercy by pulling his starters after 18 plays with the Razorbacks up by 20-0. Even so, the Shockers were still hopelessly over-matched. Third-string quarterback Joe Ferguson (Buffalo Bills) came off the bench to throw for 300-plus yards.
       Given the emotional trauma that Wichita State’s players were forced to deal with, the final score wasn’t their sole focus. John Yeros, a freshman receiver for the Shockers stated the case plainly when interviewed by the Wichita Eagle. “Those that died they wouldn't have wanted us to quit,” Yeros said. “It wasn't a great team to begin with. But it was a team that hung together.”
       Wichita State’s “Second Season” roster was comprised of 43 freshmen, 24 sophomores, six juniors, and three seniors. Even though the ’70 Shockers were winless at 0-9, they did play Louisville tough, but lost 34-24 in the season finale.
       Two years later, led by the same freshmen and sophomores who voted to continue the '70 season—Wichita State went 6-5 to post its first winning season since 1963.

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