1987 Herd Team Returns For Homecoming Game

It will be the 105th Homecoming in the history of Marshall University this weekend when the Thundering Herd hosts the Tigers of Memphis on the FieldTurf at Joan C. Edwards Stadium. It will also be a homecoming for Coach Mark Snyder and many of his 1987 teammates as the Marshall M-Club has its "Bring Home The Herd" with the team that took Marshall to its first National Championship appearance.

Tight end Sean Doctor will be the honorary coach for this weekend, and the entire 1987 team will join the current Marshall team for the "Thunder Walk" at 2:30 p.m. on Saturday from the Cam Henderson Center to JCE Stadium. There will be a reception for this team Friday night at the Marshall Memorial Student Center's John Spotts Room, following the Hall of Fame inductions of former Herd greats in the same building, starting at 5:30 p.m. The 1987 will also tailgate with the M-Club and the new Hall of Fame members at the club's pavilion on the southwest corner of the stadium. At 3:00 p.m., the pavilion will be renamed for former MU football coach Bobby Pruett, and the Hall of Fame will also be introduced just before kickoff. "I've gotten calls from a lot of those guys," said Snyder this week at his press conference. "I'm looking forward to spending some time with them."


Marshall coach Mark Snyder welcomes back his 1987 teammates this weekend as he prepares his current Thundering Herd team for the annual Homecoming game with Memphis Saturday at 4:30 p.m. (HI file photo by Greg Perry).

1987 was a star-studded team for then head coach George Chaump, who cannot attend due to his current team in Harrisonburg, Pa., being in the playoffs. Players like Tony Petersen and John Gregory at quarterback, running back Ron Darby, Doctor and receivers like College Football Hall of Fame member Mike Barber, plus Keith Baxter and Bruce Hammond who made up the "Killer Bs". On defense, Marshall had Snyder, who set a MU single-season record that year with ten interceptions, Reggie Giles, who holds the career interception record at Marshall with 19, and Cecil Fletcher, who holds the single-season mark for sacks with 17. Petersen, Gregory, Barber, Doctor, Darby and Giles are all members of the Marshall Athletic Hall of Fame.

The team set a Marshall record with 10 wins and advanced to the I-AA National Championship in Pocatello, Idaho, falling 43-42 to NE Louisiana. But after five games in that 1987 season, Marshall was in jeopardy of having a losing season, much less thinking about advancing to the title game. MU was 2-3 after five games, losing to Furman, Eastern Kentucky and I-A Ohio University and winning versus Youngstown State and Morehead State. Next up for the Herd was Division I-A Louisville, coached by Howard Schnellenberger, in a game at Cardinal Stadium. Very few fans felt the Herd could even play with the Cardinals, and looked for the team to drop to 2-4.

At the half of the game, however, Marshall was not only playing UL off its feet, the Herd led the game 28-10. Darby had scored on two rushing touchdowns and Peterson hooked up with Barber for a 13-yard score and hit fullback Jerry Harris for a four-yard touchdown just before the half to set the margin as the teams went to the locker room. Back came the Cardinals in the second half, scoring 21 points to take a 31-28 lead in the fourth quarter on two scoring passes by Jay Gruden and touchdown run of 35-yards from Rodney Knighton, his second score of the game. With 1:51 left in the game, UL looked to ice the game with a Ronny Bell 41-yard field goal, but with the miss of the kick the Herd was still alive.

Petersen began one of the great drives in Marshall history, taking Marshall 76 yards in that final 1:51 of the game. Petersen, however, was sacked and the Herd was out of timeouts as the clock ticked inside ten seconds. Petersen, groggy from the sack, lined the team up and took the snap with just two seconds showing and the sidelines in a panic. Rolling right, Petersen lofted a pass that appeared to be intended for Hammond in the back of the end zone, but out of no where Keith Baxter leaped into the picture. With two Louisville defenders on him, Baxter went high and came down with the touchdown that set off a wild celebration by both the Herd team and many Marshall fans who had made the three-plus hour ride down Interstate 64 to watch the Herd upset the I-A Cardinals.

Marshall would only lose once in the next eight games, and that loss at Appalachian State in Boone by 17-10 would be erased when the Herd upset the Mountaineers in Boone on Dec. 12 to earn MU's first trip the the championship game with a 24-10 win, powered by a Barber touchdown reception and two more Darby touchdowns. The game at Idaho State's "MiniDome" between No. 18-ranked Marshall and No. 3 NEL featured over 1,100 yards of total offense from Petersen and future NFL quarterback Stan Humphries of the Indians. MU carried a 42-28 lead into the fourth quarter on touchdowns by all three "Killer Bs" (tow by Baxter) and a Darby touchdown, but Humphries threw and ran for a touchdown in the win for NEL. Perry Harper picked off a Petersen pass to save the gave for the Indians at about 2:00 a.m. Huntington time, giving sleepy Herd fans at taste of the excitment to come in the next 20 years of Herd football, with more trips to championships, two national titles, numerous bowl and conference titles and even No. 1 rankings in I-AA and No. 10 in Division I-A. It all started with the 1987 team and we welcome them back this weekend.

The 1987 team had five first team All-Southern Conference players in Barber, who caught 11 for-121 yards versus Louisville and led the SC with 106 catches for 1,757 yards and 11 touchdowns; Doctor, who had 96 catches for 1,372 yards and nine scored; Darby, who led the league with 1,506 yards (4.8 ypr) and 16 touchdowns; Petersen, the SC Offensive Player and Athlete of the Year (saving five games for Herd baseball), who led the leade with 340-of-622 passing for a still MU record of 4,902 yards and 35 touchdowns; and Snyder, who led the SC in total interceptions. The players set 15 individual records and ten team records. Darby, Doctor and Barber were first team All-Americans, while Snyder was named to the honorable mention All-Am team by Don Hansen's Football Gazette. Center Sam Manos was second team All-Am on the AP team and non-seniors on that squad like Nick McKnight and Eric Ihnat would win All-American honors in the coming seasons. Fletcher was Marshall's first player in the East-West Shrine Game since Jackie Hunt in 1941. The Herd also set ten Marshall records and many of the '87 team returned in 1988 to set a new MU wins mark with an 11-2 season and winning Marshall's first SC title before losing in the I-AA quarterfinals.

1987 Depth Chart. Quarterback-Tony Petersen, John Gregory, Greg Supsura, Layne Vranka; Running back- Ron Darby, Tim Beasley, Kerry Parks ; Fullback-Jerome Hazard, Jerry Harris, Mike McCoy; Receiver-Mike Barber, Bruce Hammond, Keith Baxter, Vincent Bodie, Bobby Lutz; Tight end-Sean Doctor, Ron Barnes, Eric Ihnat; Offensive Line-Greg Adkins, Jay Gleich, Sam Manos, John Halford, Mike Talkington, Keith Turner, Roy Sumlin, Jim Torres, Scott Heckle, Keith Powell, John Cook, Tim Carper, Madison Sayre; Defensive Line-Cecil Fletcher, Shawn Finnan, Tony Bolland, Bill Mendoza, Nick McKnight, Brian Jarrell, Larry O'Dell, Larry Huffman, Preston Washington, Rory Fitzpatrick, Orlando O'Farrill, Eric Tyler, Norm Franklin; Linebackers-John Spellacy, Rondell Wannamaker, Randy White, Jason Lemons, Tim Flaherty, Matt Downey, Tom Schindler, John Crowder; Jerome Hazard; Cornerback-Reggie Giles, Darryl Burgess, Von Woodson; Safeties-Mark Snyder, Stanley Hall, Ken Green, Sean Dillon, Tim Mitchell; Kicker-Kevin Gault, John Mitchell, Brian Mitchell; Punter-Todd Fugate; Long Snapper-Bobby Lutz; Holder-Mike Barber, Greg Supsura; Coaches-George Chaump, Jerry Bruner, Charlie Donnor, Jake Gonos, Frank Hickson, Don Poluszek, Sam Shaffer, Jon Tenuta, Ron Thompson; Team Doctor-Dr. Jose Ricard; Trainers-Dan Martin, Kevin Lavery; Equipment Manager-Fred McConnell; Sports Information-Max Yates; Athletic Director-David Braine.


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