Thursday, January 12, 2012
Herd holds its own in first game after plane crash
Nobody knew what to expect when Marshall’s football team took the 90-minute bus ride to Kentucky for a road game against Morehead State. A loyal contingent of approximately 4,000 accompanied the Thundering Herd that night.
It was the ’71 season opener for both teams. But more significantly, it was the Marshall’s first regular-season game since the tragic plane crash of November 14, 1970.
The Thundering Herd was clearly the under-dog in every conceivable way. Morehead’s Eagles were bigger and had far more game experience and a much deeper bench. Marshall, by contrast, was comprised primarily of freshmen and sophomores. The final stats revealed how much of a disparity existed between the two teams. The Eagles finished with 453 total yards to MU’s 141.
The final score was 29-6, Morehead. But with 9 minutes, 21 seconds remaining in the third quarter, the Herd only trailed by 16-6 after quarterback Reggie Oliver threw a 10-yard touchdown pass to tight end Tom Smyth.
I didn’t go to that game, but I did listen intently on the radio. Even though MU didn’t come close to pulling off a stunning upset, I could feel the raw excitement of the moment when the Herd scored its first touchdown of the season.
For that game, it wasn’t about victory or defeat. What was so satisfying was that this youthful team held its own against a squad that probably should have put 60 points on the board that night. The fact that the Herd even had a team was proof enough that Marshall University’s football resurrection was well underway.