Friday, November 4, 2016

'70 season was so promising until "that night"

Thundering Herd receivers Dennis Blevins (80) and Kevin Gilmore (24) battle
for position to catch a pass during the 1970 season opener against
Morehead State. (Photo courtesy of the Herald-Dispatch archives)
In another week-and-a-half, it will be 46 years since the Marshall football team, coaches, staff and supports died in a fiery plane crash. Even after so much time has passed, that horrible night continues to rate as a tragedy of epic proportions. 

    But what isn't always mentioned in regards to the crash, is how promising things looked for the Thundering Herd during that season. Up until the night of November 14, 1970, Marshall football had shown positive signs of better days to come.
    MU's '70 season ended with a gut-wrenching 17-14 road loss to East Carolina. It was a game in which the final outcome wasn't decided until the closing seconds.
    The team's record for that year was 3-6. But that was not a true reflection of how far the program had progressed after suffering through four straight losing seasons.. Prior to the second week of November 1970, the Herd was in position to finish up at 5-5 if it could win its remaining games against East Carolina and Ohio University. Had that happened, it would've marked a major breakthrough of more victories to come in the immediate future.
    Looking back on that season, all you need to do is look at the scores. In four of Marshall's losses, te average margin of defeat was a mere 3.5 points.
    Truth of the matter is that for the 1970 season, the Herd could have fared much better. It's not a stretch to say that Marshall could have posted a 7-2 record prior to the crash.
    That's saying a lot, especially when you consider that Marshall was woefully undermanned in terms of roster size. Over the course of a season, injuries tend to tell the tale, especially if your team doesn't have that many players on the roster to begin with.
    In spite of that, the Herd continued to press on. Who knows how things might have worked out had it not been for the crash? Sure, this is pure speculation. Still, I feel safe in saying that it's a question that's been asked over-and-over again over the past 40-something years.

-Craig T. Greenlee

Coming Tuesday, November 8th: Memories of a Marshall Classmate ... Part I

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