'Monumental' Marshall win


A "monumental win for the Herd," a "stinging" or "stunning" loss depending on the Wildcat voicing his emotions.

Unranked Marshall 27, No. 6-ranked Kansas State 20.

And it was played at KSU Stadium.

"Can you believe it?" exclaimed Marshall quarterback Graham Gochneaur, in a tone of semi-disbelief while standing at center field where his teammates were staging a gang-mob celebration, moments after mugging the Wildcats' Lynch Mob defense.

Graham, you better believe it because it was an earned victory. Full credit needs to be given to this team from the Mid-American Conference that has been in NCAA Division I football only since 1999. The Herd defeated the Wildcats by playing ... well, Wildcat football.

Marshall pounded the ball. Marshall forced mistakes. Marshall stopped the run. Marshall made winning plays.

And it all resulted in, the emotion-filled words of Herd coach Bob Pruett, "... a monumental win."

The biggest win, in Pruett's mind, since Marshall's 15-13 victory over Xavier on Sept. 25, 1971. That was Marshall's first win since a Nov. 14, 1970, plane crash on a return trip from a game at East Carolina.

The tragedy claimed the lives of 75 individuals, including 37 players. Too this day, it stands as the worst sports-related air disaster in American history.

The victory was also Marshall's first against a ranked team, and what's even considered the most significant moment in Mid-American Conference history.
"One of the greatest days in our history," said
MAC associate commissioner Dell Robinson, who attended the game. "Miami of Ohio defeated Clemson once in the early-1990s, but none of our teams have ever defeated a team ranked this high before."

Echocing Pruett, Robinson said, "It's monumental for all of us."

Ironically, members of the Marshall administration attended the game to take a look-see at a Wildcat program that they have used as a model.

From 1966 to 1983, Marshall was matching Kansas State loss for loss. It was an 18-year period without a single winning season. There were a pair of winless seasons, two with just one smiling Saturday, and seven more with just two wins.

Eighteen years, 39 wins. And now this: Marshall 27, Kansas State 20.

"We felt we were a school that had gone through some times like Kansas State and we wanted to see what you guys were doing right," said Herd booster Jim Gibson, who made the trip from Sarasota, Fla.

Smiling, he added, "We found out we were doing some things right, too."

Dr. Bill Ratcliff of Huntington, W.Va., added, "We felt our situations were similar in where we've both been, and where we are today. For a program like ours, this is a highlight. What (KSU), No. 6 in the nation? This is a moment we will all remember."

It's also one Kansas State, at least coach Bill Snyder, will remember for a long, long, long time.

Longer that that, probably.

The loss snapped a 39-game Purple win streak against non-conference regular-season opponents, and ended a 41-game string against non-league teams at KSU Stadium. That dates back to Sept. 23, 1989, when Northern Illinois slapped a 37-20 loss on the Wildcats.

But what Snyder says is now pivotal is how the Wildcats respond to the defeat.

He knows that K-State's opportunity for playing for the national title in the Sugar Bowl has all but been eliminated. But, he said, "This becomes a true test of character for everyone in our program. The most important thing is how we respond."

One only has to reflect to the 2001 season when K-State stumbled against Oklahoma, and then against Colorado, and then against Texas Tech, and then against Texas A&M in a month of Saturdays. The result was a 6-6 season.

With a lineup of at Texas, at Oklahoma State and against Colorado at KSU Stadium awaiting K-State, Snyder asked, "How do we respond? That will be the defining factor in what kind of football team we are and will be throughout the year."

In reference to the upcoming Big 12 season, Snyder said, "We are no further away from what I would hope we really wanted to achieve five hours ago. If indeed we want the opportunity to play in Kansas City again (Big 12 title game on Dec. 6), we are in the same position that we were.

"Having said that," Snyder said, "we have a lot of things to get corrected before we have a chance to achieve that."

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