Coming up later this summer, Herd Insider will look at Marshall history with items like the list of top players of all-time, the top comeback wins and other great moments on the gridiron with the Green and White. To start, let's go back a decade to the Herd's first season in Division I-A football back in the MAC.
1997: Bowl Bound!
Herd takes a giant step forward after dominating I-AA football for nearly a decade by joining the ranks of Division I-A football and rejoining the Mid-American Conference. There were some hard feelings by old-time Marshall fans for the MAC, who booted the Herd from the league after the 1968 season led to one-year of NCAA probation for the MU program. But with Randy Moss, Chad Pennington and Doug Chapman on offense, not to mention Larry McCloud, B.J. Cohen and Rogers Beckett on defense among many outstanding players, the Herd opened with the first game since 1923 with West Virginia, then beat Army, rolled to an 9-2 season and the MAC East title. Marshall knocked off Toledo in the first MAC Championship, better known as the "Snow Bowl" at MU Stadium and advanced to the Herd's first bowl in a half-century in Detroit, of all places. The Motor City Bowl featured many future NFL stars on both sides, but the Ole Miss Rebels would score late, then knock away a final pass to Moss, to knock off the Herd 34-31. SEC fans, however, knew they had seen a team to be reckoned with for the next few years as the Herd finished 10-3 in its first year among the "big boys" of college football.
1987: See You In Idaho!
Marshall was in its second season under George Chaump and while the pieces seemed to be in place to improve on its 6-4-1 mark in 1986, Marshall was just 2-3 and headed to I-A Louisville. Another loss might mean Marshall would just miss the playoffs, as they did with a late loss at Western Carolina the year before. The Herd would have a game for the ages, however, jumping out to a 28-10 halftime lead on the stunned Cardinals. Back came UL, scoring 21 points and leading 31-28 with 5:28 remaining. The Cards would miss a field goal with 1:51 to play, and Tony Petersen had one more chance.
The Herd drove about 40 yards with only one time-out, but was 31-yards away with time running out and Petersen on his back after being sacked. The Herd hurried to the line and the ball was snapped with two seconds left. Somehow, someway Keith Baxter flew above two UL defenders in the end zone to come down with the ball and the win, 34-28 as the Herd fans rushed the field. MU would not lose but one more time, on November 7 in Boone, N.C. to Appy State, 17-10. The Herd would beat James Madison and Weber State at home, then revenged that loss to ASU with a win in the semi-finals right back at the home of the Mountaineers by winning 24-10 for a trip to the National Championship in Pocatello, Idaho, against Northeast Louisiana.
With a 10:00 p.m. eastern kickoff, MU and NELA kept a lot of folks up in a 43-42 shootout, won late by the Indians, but the Herd was now a team to watch in both the Southern Conference and nationally in I-AA.
1977: Welcome To The SC!
Marshall was coming off the best record, 5-6, they would post from 1965-1983 and hopes were good for the upcoming season. Marshall would join the Southern Conference, along with Western Carolina and UT-Chattanooga, its first league membership since leaving the MAC in 1968. The first SC rouser was a typical media gathering until MU head coach Frank Ellwood stepped to the podium and said, "I'll start off by saying I think we can win the Southern Conference." Writers sat up, pens and pencils flew on paper and soon every team in the league had the MU matchup circled.
Having only four SC opponents on the schedule, the league designated Louisville as the Herd fifth league game, not exactly a favor to the new member. The Herd would open, however, with three games at home and got off to a decent start with a 27-49 loss to Ohio, a 38-26 win over Morehead State (and Phil Simms) and a 24-0 shutout of Toledo for an early Homecoming win. The team, with players like Bud Nelson at QB, Mike Bailey and C.W. Geiger at running back (both rushing for over 100 yards in the win over the Rockets), Ray Crisp at receiver and returns, could score but had allowed nearly 25 points per game despite a shutout.
Opening at Appalachian State, the Herd lost a heartbreaker, 20-28. Next up was a road trip to Miami, Ohio, who remembered the Herd's upset in ‘76 with a 29-19 win. Then on to Furman, where the Paladins won another shootout, 42-24, and to Western Michigan, where a banged-up defense was raked in a 53-29 loss. The Herd was 0-2 in the SC, 1-3 versus the MAC, so hope was still alive at 2-4. The Cardinals would snuff that out, routing the Herd 56-0 to drop MU to 0-3 in the league. Marshall traveled next to Akron, who they also upset in 1976 9-0, but not in 1977, as the Herd fell 7-28 to the Division II Zips. Western Carolina rolled in a 41-26 win over Marshall and the Herd went to Chamberlain Field for a 37-20 beating by the SC Champion Mocs, all while staying at the Chattanooga Choo-Choo Hotel in anticipation of the "celebration" of the SC title, but only UTC was celebrating.
Marshall ended the season allowing the most points in school history, over 35 points per game and 389 on the season. This was in the face of Geiger becoming the first back since Jackie Hunt to rush for over 1,000 yards and Bailey adding nearly 600 more on the ground with the two combining for 11 touchdowns; Crisp having a 108-yard kickoff return and nearly 200 yards in return against WCU, still a MU record; and Nelson throwing for over 1,000 yards and ten touchdowns with the offense scoring the most points at MU since 1947. The Herd would fall to 1-10 the following year, Ellwood would be replaced with Sonny Randle and the Herd would be 0-26-1 in the SC before winning 17-10 at Appy State in 1981, where all the losing started. The first SC title would finally come in 1988, over a decade later.
1967: Losing More Than Games!
For the first time since 1920, the last time since and only the sixth time in Marshall history, the Herd lost every game in the season. MU posted a 0-10 mark that would cost head coach Charlie Snyder his job, but would cost the Marshall football program much more down the road. The first Coach Snyder had coached MU to a second-place finish in the MAC back in 1964, 5-5 in 1965 but two-platoon football was beginning to catch up with the Herd, always underfunded and sharing a stadium with two high schools, various junior highs, band festivals, track meets and many other events that turned what little grass on the Fairfield's surface to turn to mud by October.
It wasn't as if the Herd was blown out of every game in ‘67, after going 2-8 in 1966. MU was 0-4 after back-to-back seven point losses to Toledo (14-7) and Xavier (7-0), opening with big losses at Morehead and in the home opener versus Ohio. After three big losses at Miami (48-6), at Louisville (43-7) and at Western Michigan (42-10), the Herd returned home for Homecoming with Bowling Green. A disappointing 9-7 loss to the Falcons made the Herd 0-8 and might have been the final nail in Snyder's "coffin" in front of the alums. MU went down hard in the last road game at Kent State, scoring only a safety in a 41-2 loss. The players tried to win the last game, but fell in another good effort, 29-14, to the Pirates from East Carolina, the first game of a four-year contract that ran through 1970.
Snyder was fired, certain alumni and boosters hired Eddie Barrett as Athletic Director and Perry Moss as football coach and made the determination that if the Herd was to get good, they would bend the rules, take their chances with the NCAA and see if the program could be turned around. 144 alleged recruiting violations led to only a 0-9-1 mark for Moss. It would cost him, Barrett, basketball coach Ellis Johnson and eventually President Roland Nelson their jobs and would end with Marshall permanently suspended from the MAC after the NCAA gave MU a one-year probation. But the worst loss of all that season would not be known for four years. The contract with East Carolina would lead to the Herd playing there in 1970 and having 75 persons killed when Marshall's chartered Southern Airways plane crashed into the hillside below Tri-State Airport on November 14 on the return trip from Greenville, N.C.
1957: MAC Magic!
Marshall legend Herb Royer had taken over the Thundering Herd program in 1953, just as Marshall left the ranks of the NAIA for membership in the NCAA and the Mid-American Conference. Four tough seasons of 2-5-2 in 1953; 4-5 in 1954; and 3-6 in 1955 and 1956 showed the Herd how high the climb to the top rungs of college football would be for the always short on cash Marshall program. 1957, however, started with a bang. Marshall would come out of the game with a 12-7 win over W.Va. State, then shutout longtime rival Morehead State, 21-0. Next up was the first MAC game and first trip, but the Herd went to Kalamazoo and laid a 12-7 loss on Western Michigan. However, WMU was a team Marshall had beaten all four years they had played, so despite being 3-0, fans were still wondering if this team was for real.
The Herd improved to 4-0, 2-0 in the MAC, with a14-7 win over Toledo at the Glass Bowl and would return to Fairfield Stadium to meet Kent State, who Marshall had never beaten. The defense was stout again, holding the Flashes to six points, and the offense scored once but that was enough for a 7-6 win and a 5-0, 3-0 MAC mark. The five wins in a row tied a single-season record for consecutive wins last accomplished in 1941. Ohio was the Homecoming opponent the following week and the Herd had not beaten OU since Gunnar Miller hit a last-second field goal in 1953 for a 9-6 win. To this point, the defense had allowed 34 points and the offense, behind All-MAC QB Bob Wagner, had scored just enough with 65 points in five wins. Marshall had not given the alumni a win for Homecoming since 1949, when they beat the Bobcats, and that was true on this day as the Herd knocked off Ohio, 34-28. Marshall had never won six games in a row, much less to start the year, and was 4-0 in the MAC.
Injuries began to catch up with the Herd, always using just 15-18 players for a full season. The win streak ended in an out-of-conference matchup with Xavier, as the Herd was shutout in a 18-0 loss. Back to the MAC and back on the road towards Cincinnati as Marshall traveled for a first-place battle with Miami. The Redskins had not lost to the Herd since 1939 and won on this day to clinch the MAC, 25-13. Marshall would end the season in its final seven-point game of the season, but ended up on the wrong end of a 14-7 loss to BGSU. Still, MU was 6-3, best since 6-4 in Cam Henderson's last season of 1949, and 4-2 in the league was good enough for second in the MAC. Royer took the podium at the banquet and called on University and town leaders to step up their financial commitment to the team, or he vowed he would resign, and that's just what he did after the Herd finished 3-6 in 1958.
1947: Tangerine Bowl Beckons!
Football returned to Marshall in 1946, following three years off for World War II, and the Herd had gone 2-7-1 in that first season of the "modern" era. Cam Henderson thought his team might be pretty good for 1947, however, as he started in 1946 to get back prewar players like tackle Charlie Snyder, backs Chasey Wilson and Chuck Fieldson, and had sophomores for 1947 like backs Marvin Wetzel and Bob Hartley, guard Claude Miller, tackle Norman Willey and end Bob Koontz add to freshmen like center Bob Anderson, end Donnie Gibson, guards Dan Wickline and Louie Gibson, huge tackle (247 pounds!) Ivan Hawthorne and back Harold "Brute" Smith.
Henderson also dropped from the schedule Cincinnati, Toledo, Scranton and Dayton, who Marshall was 0-3-1 versus in 1946. He added Steubenville, Canisius, Indiana State, Bradley and St. Vincent, renewed series with Morehead State and Eastern Kentucky and would once again play Xavier and Morris Harvey, the Herd's biggest rival. Marshall opened with three straight wins, including a 60-6 rout of Steubenville, a 38-12 pasting of the Eagles of MSU, and a 7-6 win over the Colonels at EKU. Following a close 25-20 loss to Canisius at home, the Herd shutout Evansville 24-0 in Indiana, then shutout Indiana State back at Fairfield, 33-0. The defense would allow six in the St. Vincent game, but the offense came up with 39 and the Herd was 6-1.
Murray State's Racers were in next to Huntington, but raced back to Kentucky with a 41-20 loss. The big year was slowed just a bit with a tough 18-7 loss in Cincinnati to the Musketeers of XU, but the Herd rebounded with a Homecoming win over Bradley on November 22 by the score of 33-19. Just five days later, Morris Harvey came down from Charleston for the annual Thanksgiving Day game at Fairfield and limped back to the Kanawha Valley with a 40-6 pasting and a 9-2 mark for the Herd, most wins since 1939. Henderson put away the football gear and was preparing for basketball when the rumors started flying in Huntington about a possible first-ever bowl game for the Herd. Five or six teams had turned down the chance to meet the defending champs of the initial Tangerine Bowl in Orlando, the Catawba Indians, and the high-scoring Herd (342 points in 11 games, over 30 per game) was being considered.
Henderson was overruled by Marshall College officials and boosters when the Herd said yes to the invite for January 1, 1948. He left with the basketball team, winners of the NAIB National Championship back in March of 1947, for the prestigious Helms Foundation Los Angeles Invitational, and left assistant coaches Roy Straight and Joe Pease to coach the football team for the bowl. He also took two key players in Koontz and Willey, backups in basketball but two-way starters at end, with the cagers. Henderson would win the two opening games at home, drop six games by train between Huntington and Denver, Colorado, then fly into LA and win the Los Angeles tourney by beating Syracuse on December 30, 46-44.
The football team would bus for four days to Orlando, stopping and practicing along the way, and then fall to Catawba 7-0, with Donnie Gibson named MVP of the game having to play end instead of blocking quarter in Henderson's single wing. Marshall out-rushed, out-passed and out-first downed the Indians, but some late penalties against the Herd are still lamented by players on that ‘47 Herd team. It would be 50 years before the Herd's next bowl appearance.
1937: Buckeye Conference Champs!
Cam Henderson was in his third year as football and basketball coach at Marshall, after taking Davis and Elkins College to national prominence in the late 1920s and early 1930s. He had already won a Buckeye Conference championship in the 1936-37 season, behind Jule Rivlin, but football was on the rise after going 4-6 in 1935 and 6-3-1 in 1936. The Herd was loaded with great players, like Wayne Underwood, Bill Smith and standout back Herd Royer. But few expected Marshall to compete for the Buckeye title against the likes of Dayton, Cincinnati, Ohio, Dayton and Ohio Wesleyan.
The Herd came out with thunder to start the year, shutting out four of five opponents to start 5-0. Salem (47-0) and Western Maryland (21-0) fell at home, then the Herd won at Miami (7-0) and at Ohio Wesleyan (21-6) before returning home to blown out an undermanned Georgetown College team, 90-0. Ohio came in next and the Herd had little luck with the Bobcats since winning the first meeting in 1905, 6-5 (five for TD until 1912). Five losses and three ties was all to show, including a 13-13 tie in 1936. The two green and white squads settled once again for kissing their sisters, as they once again tied 13-13 and the Herd was 2-0-1 in league play.
Centre and Cincinnati were shutout at Fairfield the next two weeks, falling 36-0 and 28-0 respectively, for Herd's first Buckeye win over Bearcats. The league title was now on line with a trip to Dayton and it was THE game of the day in the Midwest. Three theaters, including Cincinnati, Columbus and Chicago, all took a live feed of the game. The Herald-Dispatch newspaper built a two-story tall football field for fans to stand in Tenth Street and watch as the ball was moved up and down the field as news came to the editor on a open phone line to his reporter at the game.
In a driving snow, Marshall scored just once but that was enough in a 7-0 win that clinched the Buckeye title at 4-0-1. Marshall finished the season on Thanksgiving Day with eighth shutout in ten games, beating West Virginia Wesleyan 27-0. Smith was a first-team AP "Little" All-American, Underwood and Royer were honorable mention and they were joined on the All-Buckeye squad by Nelson Bragg, Charles Watson, Everette "Boot" Elkins, Dick Hunter and Bob Rodgers on the first team, Bob Adkins on the second team (after his long TD won the Dayton game) and third team included John Stephens, Frank Huffman and Zack Kush - nearly every man on the squad. Marshall's win, plus three-straight wins in basketball, so ranked the Ohio members the Buckeye was disbanded after the 1939-39 basketball season, according to those who were there. The Herd was 5-4 the following year, again beating OWU, UC and Miami.
Four team members of those teams were eventually drafted in the NFL, including freshman Jim Roberts, sophomore Jack Morlock plus Elkins (15th round) and Huffman(16th), both taken in 1939 by the Chicago Cardinals, the Herd's first-ever draftees, and Stephens signed and played for the Cleveland Rams in 1938. Marshall's scoring machine piled up nearly 300 points, averaging 29.7 per game which led the East in scoring in college football.
1927: Fairfield In Future, Radio Now!
1927 is not significant so much for the season that played out on the Marshall Campus Field (located behind today's Morrow Library and Science Building on the MU campus), as the Herd posted a second-straight five win season. Charles "Trusty" Tallman, who played at Marshall while in the model and Normal School, took over the team in 1925 after his graduation from WVU. The Herd was 5-3-1, 4-1 in the West Virginia Athletic Conference, and lost the second WVAC crown since 1925 by losing the Homecoming game to West Virginia Wesleyan on Thanksgiving Day, 0-19. Marshall opened the season with a WVAC win over Broaddus College (today's Alderson-Broadus) on campus, 33-6, then went to Cleveland and tied John Carroll College 6-6.
Concord was up next and the date was October 8, 1927. Marshall Athletic Director Roy "Legs" Hawley had struck a deal with the new radio station in Huntington, WSAZ Radio. Today's WRVC 930 AM would broadcast all home football, basketball and baseball games on WSAZ, which had come into being on October 16, 1923 in Pomeroy, Ohio. The station moved to Huntington in March of 1927, raising the power outage from 50 to 100 watts at 1240 on the AM dial. By the time the Mountain Lions were visiting the Herd, the signal was at 1200 on the dial and the station was at 1143 Fourth Avenue (today, a parking lot for the Goodyear dealer there), just one block from WRVC current location in the Coal Exchange Building at Fourth and 11th Street. The Herd would make a splash in this first broadcast, with former player Pat Patterson at the mike along with former football manager and Huntington Advertiser writer Fred Burns on the call. Marshall defeated Concord, 18-6.
Also in 1927, ground was broken for a "mammoth concrete stadium" to hold over 25,000 for Marshall games. A total of $42,000 was loaned by the state to build this new stadium in the Fairfield Park area of Huntington. The site chosen was a former dump, called "Cockroach Commons" by locals. By 1928, the Thundering Herd would share a double-header with Huntington High for the opening day at Fairfield Stadium, and the two would play games there for over 60 years, along with Huntington East, Douglas, the Huntington Hawks and many other teams. Also, Duke Ridgley of the Huntington Herald-Dispatch begins to refer to Marshall teams as the "Thundering Herd" in his stories and columns, while others stick to the traditional "Big Green" or even "Judges," which is suggested in the school newspaper.
1917: War Clouds Loom For U.S.!
Not a good year for the few young men playing Marshall football or thousands nationwide, as President Woodrow Wilson declares war on Germany and its allies in April. The U.S. will join with Allied Powers of the United Kingdom, France, Russia (until its revolution in 1917), Italy and many other nations to defeat Central Powers, led by the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the German Empire and the Ottoman Empires (primarily based in Turkey).
Marshall was coming off a great season in 1916 in Coach Boyd Chambers final season before leaving for Cincinnati. A 7-2-1 mark behind Brad Workman and Benny Shepard included three shutouts, including 101-0 over Kentucky Wesleyan (biggest win in Marshall history). Carl Shipley took over the Herd in 1917 that was quickly being depleted of men for the war effort. (Marshall's enrollment had only topped 1,000 for the first time in 1907 and was about two-to-one women to men in the Normal School program for producing secondary school teachers). Captain Morris Foose and the rest of the Big Green would not be up to the task for the season.
Marshall would record its only win when Rio Grande had to forfeit, due to lack of players. The team then scored only seven points all year, in a 7-7 tie with Barboursville-based, and big Marshall rival, Morris Harvey College. The games were ugly: 0-94 at Denison; 0-68 at Marietta; 0-37 against Otterbein; 0-61 in Kentucky against Georgetown; 0-38 to the Greenbrier Military Academy in Lewisburg; 0-28 at Muskingum; and 0-12 versus Huntington High in the annual Homecoming game on Thanksgiving Day. Not much to be thankful for this season for Marshall fans - a terrible season and many young men in the trenches in Europe. Little did they know it would be the last football game at Marshall until October of 1919, due to WWI and then the worldwide of Spanish Flu, which closed Marshall for all of October of 1918.
1907: Sticker Shock!
This would be the final season of Marshall's team not having a hired coach. In the 1890s, it was very regular for the student captain to work with a student manager to form the team, schedule games, give out and collect equipment. Team captain T.J. Robinson of the squad would lead the Big Green (Marshall was "Green and White" since 1903 - former colors were the "Black and Blue" of Marshall) in the ‘07 season to a 3-2-1 record.
A new item at the Marshall field, however, would stick around forever. Tickets were charged for entry for the first time when the Marshall Athletic Association was forced to lay out $65.10 for green and white socks (12 pairs, $8.40); six pairs of pants ($13.20); 11 pairs of football cleats ($38.50) and one new football ($5.00). At the end of the season, all equipment was gathered and inventoried by the student manager, then turned over to President Lawrence J. Corbly to secure the equipment for use in the 1908 season.
1897: On The Warpath!
Marshall College may have started organized football as early as 1893, but the first game recorded in the Huntington Advertiser was in 1895, on the day a cornerstone was laid for the new bell tower on the building that becomes "Old Main" on the MU campus. No games were reported in 1896, but the "Indians" of Marshall were back in action in 1897. A standing-room only crowd of over 500 crowded the campus field for a battle with the Huntington "Tigers," decked out in their "Garnet and Gold" (which would be very close to the color scheme in the future for Huntington East H.S., while Huntington Vinson would eventually be the "Tigers,", while another Huntington team in 1896 is described wearing the Vinson colors of "Orange and Black"). Marshall, decked out in "Black and Blue" would fall to the Tigers by the score of 14-10 on a late fumble recovery for a touchdown by Perkins, who kicked the extra-point. Indian fans were still fuming, however, as an opening 85-yard kickoff return by Bowen of Marshall is ruled out-of-bounds and taken off the board.
The college team, made up both of boys attending the model school (a lab for student-teachers in Normal School) and those getting a Normal School diploma (two years program for teachers of secondary schools), would run their all-time record to 0-5 (0-2 in 1985) when they later lose to Ironton, Ohio's Kingsbury H.S., 4-0 (four for touchdown) on October 30 and another loss to Kingsbury, 14-6, on November 13. The first win comes finally against Kingsbury, 2-0-1 versus Marshall since 1895, when Marshall shuts out the Ohio boys 12-0. Kingsbury will even forfeit another meeting two weeks later, reported in the Advertiser as "Ironton Boys Afraid." Marshall posts a 4-1 year in 1898, losing only to Catlettsburg on Nov. 9, 5-11, a game thought for nearly 50 years to be the first Marshall football game as "The Parthenon," Marshall's student newspaper, only had an account of this one game, a game played at Catlettsburg's Clyffside Park.
Marshall shuts out Catlettsburg in Huntington on Nov. 18, 17-0, then beats the Ashland H.S. (Ky.) Tomcats on campus, 6-0, in the second "Coming Home" game held on Thanksgiving Day. Later that day, Huntington's and Catlettsburg's best players team up to beat a team of Ashland's and Ironton's best players in a game again at Clyffside Park, 26-6, in front of a crowd of over 500 Thanksgiving day football fans. "The gridiron and the roasting pan are the emblems for modern Turkey-Day Celebration," reported the Advertiser in 1896, and that is still pretty much true even 110 years later.