96 Days Remain Until Kickoff

Summer continues to unfold across the country. Football fans are awaiting the arrivals of pre season magazines, and the announcements of pre season All American and All Conference teams. Fans want football, and they want it now. Just 96 days remain for Herd fans, lets take a look at the numbers 98, 97 and 96.

The long hard off season looms on for football players and football fans across the country. Marshall is now just 96 days until It opens its season on a Sunday night at home versus Big Ten member, the Purdue Boilermakers. The Herd is looking to avenge a road loss at the hands of Purdue just a couple of seasons back.

Today, Herdhaven takes a look at the numbers 98, 97, and 96.

Currently, the number 98 is being worn by Jason Smith. Smith is a 6’3”, 285 pound defensive lineman. The two star prep school standout is originally from Hackensack, New Jersey. He played prep school at East Coast Prep before signing with the Herd two classes ago. Smith enrolled in January of 2014, he had to stay in school for two semesters before being eligible to play for the Herd.

Smith did well enough in the class room to be added to the official roster and was able to participate in spring camp. Smith will have four years remaining to play his four years of eligibility. Smith should factor in early and often at the interior defensive line spot.

The position is currently dominated by three big time seniors, all of whom will exhaust their eligibility some time in late 2015 or, possibly early 2016 depending on what type of bowl opportunities Doc Holliday’s Herd will have at that time. Those players are Steve Dillon, Jarquez Samuel, and Ricardo Williams. Marshall also has sophomore to be Tomell One and fellow mid year prep school enrollee Malik Thompson playing in the middle.

Now to take a look back in the history of Marshall football:

In 1898 Marshall College was entering its third season playing football. The team ended the year 4 – 1 with just an 11-5 loss at Catlettsburg on November 9th being the only blemish on a nearly perfect season on a team which had no actual paid coach. A 17-0 shutout win at Catlettsburg 9 days later would begin an impressive defensive run for the Marshall gridders. No one would score an offensive point on them until October 24th of 1903. Only a safety tallied by the Huntington High School defense in 1902 prevented Marshall from giving up no points during that time frame.

In 1898 Fork Union Military Academy was born.

Which brings us to the number 97.

In 2015 the number 97 will be worn by Malik Thompson. Thompson is a 6’6”, 253 pound defensive lineman from Fork Union Military Academy. Originally from Winter Garden, Florida, Thompson came to Marshall in January of 2013, and was able to participate in spring camp this year after setting out one year as an academic non qualifier.

It will be interesting to see where Thompson fits in across the front line. Will he put on a few pounds and move inside, or line up outside at the end position which lost two seniors last year in Ra’shawde Myers and Arnold Blackmon. Marshall returns Gary Thompson, Joe Massaquoi, Blake Keller and Armonze Daniel, along with four star project Jerome Dews.

In 1997, Marshall made history. The school played its first ever game as a Division 1-A school. It lost on the road to instate rival West Virginia, 42 – 31, in a game in which it led in the fourth quarter. Marshall was led by head coach Bob Pruett. The captains were John Wade, Brian Reed, Chad Pennington, Thomas Maxwell, B.J. Cohen, and Larry McCloud.

Marshall finished the season 10 – 3, played in its first bowl game since 1947, and won the Mid American Conference Championship in its first year back since being banished. Marshall beat Toledo in the Mid American Conference Championship game 34 – 14 in the snow. It was the great Randy Moss’s final game at Joan C. Edwards Stadium.

In 1897, Marshall finished 0 – 3. Marshall College lost to the Huntington Tigers, Kingsbury and Ironton.

Number 96 will be worn this year by UCF transfer Blake Keller. Keller transferred to the Herd from UCF prior to last year and had to set out a year. He came on strong this spring and emerged as a true player at the defensive end position. The 6’2”, 229 pound end seems to have put on a little more weight and was all over the field throughout camp. He is originally from Bradenton, Florida.

In 1996, Marshall Football reached a height it had not seen in years. It won the National Championship, a feat it accomplished four years prior, but it did so in “Perfect” fashion, finishing the year 15 – 0. Marshall was led on the field by captains Eric Kresser, Tim Martin, Aaron Ferguson, Melvin Cunningham, Billy Lyon and Jermaine Swafford. It was Bob Pruett’s first year as head coach after coming to the Herd from Florida where he served as the defensive coordinator. He brought Kresser with him, which would mean true sophomore returning quarterback Chad Pennington would have to redshirt.

Marshall stormed through the season, a season which saw them in a game at home trailing the hated Furman Purple Paladins 17-14 at half. The Paladins attempted to rattle the cages of the Herd as they left the field at half. Marshall responded with 28 straight points in that game to win 42 – 17. Then, three weeks later, Furman returned to Huntington for the playoffs. Marshall won 54 – 0, ending a 72-0 run on a team that had owned the Herd for many years. The Herd defeated Montana on ESPN 49 to 29 in the National Championship game.

In 1896, Marshall College had no football team, although it did have a team in 1895 and 1897.

Stay tuned to Herdhaven as we cover number 95 tomorrow.

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