The Countdown Continues

The Dog days of summer have been upon us for the last two weeks, but finally, last Monday, football fans across the country were able to get their first look at real live football. No longer did fans have to talk about who might show up on their campus, or who may not show up on their campus, finally they got to see it with their own eyes. That happened at Marshall last Monday as well.

The Dog days of summer have been upon us for the last two weeks, but finally, last Monday, football fans across the country were able to get their first look at real live football. No longer did fans have to talk about who might show up on their campus, or who may not show up on their campus, finally they got to see it with their own eyes. That happened at Marshall last Monday as well. Attrition occurs at campus’s all over the country. It is part of the ever changing college football roster. This season, Marshall has already lost two players in Chris Alston Jr., and Andre Scott, and there are a couple players who aren’t currently accounted for in Tyler Combs and one other offensive lineman. However, after losing a few, the Herd is gaining some as well. One transfer was expected to begin practice late this week, more on that later, and a couple more late arriving members of the 2014 class should end up on the radar when classes begin in a couple weeks.

The days until the opening kickoff are getting fewer and fewer. Today marks the 16 day mark. That is right, just 16 days left until the Herd takes on the Miami Redhawks.

Let’s get to today’s countdown:

Number 16 will be worn this season by one of the highest rated players ever to put on a Marshall uniform. This player came to Marshall as a highly touted wide receiver a couple January’s ago, and now is the heir apparent to Harold “Gator” Hoskins at tight end. Those are some mighty big shoes to fill, as Hoskins led the Herd in touchdown catches, had a huge game in the Bowl Game against Maryland and is now all over the field for the Miami Dolphins.

That player is Deontay McManus. McManus is originally from Baltimore, Maryland. Out of high school, the four star wide out signed with West Virginia University after having offers from multiple BCS schools. That list included but was not limited to, Alabama, Auburn, Clemson, Georgia, Ohio State and Oregon. McManus was the 33rd best wide receiver in the country and the 217th best overall player. He did not attend West Virigina, instead, heading to prep school. He slipped to a three star prospect prior to his signing with the Herd.

McManus is now a sculpted 6’2”, 227 pound tight end who is currently second on the depth chart behind senior Eric Frohnapfel. McManus expects to be a big factor in one of the nation’s most prolific offenses.

Now it is time to go back, way back, all the way to 1916. Why? Simply because it contains the number 16.

The Marshall College football squad in 1916 was coached by Boyd Chambers. The Herd’s captain that season was Benny Shepherd. Fittingly, the captain had, “Herd,” in his last name. Marshall finished the season with a 7 – 2 – 1 record, and a 1- 1 record in the WVAA.

Marshall began the year with 4 straight wins. One of those wins was a 101 to 0 blowout win over Kentucky Wesleyan. Marshall followed that win up with a tie at Transylvania, followed by a win over Otterbein, then two straight losses to Marietta and Davis and Elkins. Marshall finished the year with two shut out wins including a homecoming win over Ohio Northern on November 30th. Yes, homecoming that year was 26 days before Christmas.

Another interesting note about that season were when the games were played. As was mentioned before, the season ended on November 30th, which is normal. However, the first game of the year was on September 29th which was very common at one point in time. In other words, if that was the case this season I would be talking about Jermaine Holmes and a 2 – 7 – 1 record put up by legendary Cam Henderson. That is right, we would be 46 days away from kickoff still in 1916.

Sixteen years ago the Marshall Thundering Herd may have had its best team in school history. Had one game not went as it did in 1998, Marshall would have entered the 2000 season riding a twenty six game winning streak, but more importantly, they would have ended the 1998 season undefeated and most likely started the 1999 season ranked in the preseason. Had this happened, Marshall may not have been stuck playing in the Motor City Bowl against BYU in 1999.

The 1998 season was special. Not just with the record, but the fact of who made up the team. The team was coached by Bob Pruett, arguably the greatest football coach in Marshall history. The team captains that season were safety Rogers Beckett, running back Doug Chapman, quarterback Chad Pennington, linebacker Andre O’Neal and center Jason Starkey. Those five players all went on to play in the NFL. Seldom does that happen at a school not named Alabama or Florida State.

The Herd started off blistering hot before heading to Doyt Perry Stadium in Bowling Green, Ohio. The Herd was huge favorites. The team came out flat to start the game, and even flatter after halftime. By the time the Halloween smoke had cleared, the Falcons had beaten the Herd 34 to 13. Marshall would go on to win the Mid American Confernce then destroy the Louisville Cardinals in the Motor City Bowl, but that game would hurt. That one day in Ohio could have cost the program literally millions of dollars in bowl revenue in 1999. The 1998 game against Bowling Green, the one that got away.

Marshall was led that year statistically by many great players, and current or future Marshall Hall of Famers.

Doug Chapman led the team in rushing with 1,184 yards on 252 carries, he also tallied fifteen touchdowns.

Chad Pennington was the leading passer on the team. The junior finished the year with 3,480 yards passing on 279 completions. He tossed 39 touchdown passes which is still a record he shares with current Marshall quarterback Rakeem Cato.

Two wide receivers led the team in receptions. Nate Poole, another future NFL player, and LaVorn Colclough, each caught 48 passes. Poole ended with 616 yards and 3 touchdowns, Colclough ended with 535 yards and 6 touchdowns.

Defensively Marshall was led in interceptions by Daninelle Derricott with 6, sacks by Ron Puggi with 5, tackles by John Grace with 135, and tackles for loss by Girardi Mercer with 16.

At the end of the day, the Herd finished 12 – 1 and MAC and Motor City Bowl Champions. But still, there was the game against Bowling Green.

That game against Bowling Green, although they were not a good squad that year, just goes to show how difficult it is for a team to go undefeated. Marshall is expected by many, well, by most, to go undefeated this year. Can they get past “Bowling Green.” If they do, the sky is the limit not just for this 2014 team, but for the entire program.

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

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