81 Days 'Till Kickoff

June 10th has arrived, and that means just eighty one days until the kickoff of the 2014 Marshall Thundering Herd football season. The Herd will travel to Oxford, Ohio to take on the Miami Redhawks in an old Mid American Conference rivalry game renewed. Herdhaven.com has been looking back in time as we get closer to kickoff and that remains the same today. Taking a look at the number Eighty One.

Eighty One years ago, the Thundering Herd was battling through some up and down times on the gridiron. Head Coach Tom Dandelet was at the helm and he was led by captain Marvin Wooley. The Herd battled through a tough season ending the year with three wins, five losses and one tie. Marshall was shut out from scoring four different times, but only lost three of them, as one of the games was a 0 – 0 tie against the Ohio Bobcats of Athens, Ohio.

Marshall ended the season with three wins. The Herd took down Transylvania, Wittenberg and Georgetown College.

Reports vary throughout the record books on who all was on that team. One record shows the Herd with a different captain in that season, so for the sake of some interesting information on a Herd legend, Herdhaven is going to run with that for a bit.

John Zontini, better known as the Sheik of Seth to most Herd fans was on campus in 1931. He was also the captain of the 1934 team, so one would assume, he was also a member of the 1933 squad. Zontini got his nickname based on being from Sherman High School in Seth, West Virginia. During his junior season, he averaged 9.5 yards per carry, which is still a Marshall record.

Zontini was an incredible athlete from a very athletic family. Virtually every big school in the region wanted the Sheik to come and play for them, that included Notre Dame. In addition to playing football, Zontini also played professional baseball for the Charleston Senators.

The Sheik was inducted into the Marshall Hall of Fame in 1984.

Now for some, "did you know" information about the Zontini Family. Did you know that the Sheik was one of three brothers to play college football. The Sheik played for the Herd. His other brother Louie went on to play at Notre Dame. After his career ended with the Fighting Irish, Louie played professional football for the Chicago Cardinals, the Buffalo Bison, and the Cleveland Browns. His other brother Lawrence "Red" Zontini played one year at the University of Tennessee before transferring back to Morris Harvey, which is now the University of Charleston. Red was a member of the 1942 Sugar Bowl winning Volunteer squad.

Flash forwarding, but staying with the theme of the number 81, Marshall's 1981 football team had a rough season, rarely scoring, but they did accomplish one feat that year for the first time, more on that in a bit.

The 1981 Herd was led onto the field by head Coach Sonny Randle. Randle chose captains on a game by game basis, a lot like current Head Coach Doc Holliday has been doing. Marshall finished the year 2 – 9 overall with wins over Morehead State and Appalachian State. At one point the Herd was shut out in three consecutive games against ETSU, Louisville, and UTC. Those were sandwiched in between losses to Western Michigan and William and Mary in which Marshall mustered up only three and seven points respectively.

The statistical Leaders in 1981 were:

Rushing – Larry Farquean – The sophomore running back carried the ball 197 times, for 843 touchdowns and two touchdowns.

Passing – Ted Carpenter – The Freshman quarterback split time, but ended the year throwing for 758 yards, three touchdowns and eight interceptions.

Receiving – Darnell Richardson – Richardson was a senior wideout for the Herd. He ended the eyar with 50 catches for 690 yards and three touchdowns. He averaged 13.8 yards per reception.

Now back to that significant moment mentioned earlier. Marshall went on the road late in the year and beat Appalachian State 17 to 10. This would be the first ever win for Marshall in Southern Conference play. Marshall would win another one in 1982 on the road, and then finally, in 1983 get their first ever home Southern Conference victory.

A look at number 81 on the 2014 Herd.

Craig Wilkins – Wilkins came to Marshall as a two star wide receiver from Hialeah High School in Hialeah, Florida. Wilkins committed, and later signed with the Herd after receiving other offers from Minnesota, Kentucky, Kansas, Kansas State, Duke and Cincinnati.

Wilkins will be a senior at Marshall this year. He is in a battle with Angelo Jean Louis, Davonte Allen, and Justin Hunt for the two remaining wide out positions along with Tommy Shuler. Wilkins had a solid 2013 season where he ended third on the team in receiving yards. His final numbers were 32 catches for 408 yards and two touchdowns. He averaged 12.8 yards per catch. He had one huge catch late in the game against Maryland in the Military Bowl. Cato had been scrambling then found Wilkins open on the sideline which helped to extend the drive. Marshall would go on to win the game 31 to 20.

Stay tuned to Herdhaven.com for further updates, countdowns, and stories.

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