Marshall Is Missing from ESPN's SportsCentury

If you're looking for a detailed description of the Marshall career of Randy Moss in the new ESPN Classic "SportsCentury" documentary on the Herd's first-ever Heisman Finalist that debuts this week, forget about it.

Don't blink or you'll miss Moss in his familiar No. 88 Green and White uniform. Outside of his signature hurdle over a hapless Army defender or a leaping grab for one of his two touchdown catches against West Virginia in 1997, Marshall doesn't figure prominently in the new 30-minute program.

Instead, "SportsCentury: Randy Moss" focuses on Moss' legal troubles related to his fight at DuPont high school, his first round freefall in the NFL draft and the fallout following his comments last season that "I'll play when I want to play."

"Having been an athlete and a big star of the state, I think that put an extra eye on me," said Moss. "A lot had to do with me being black and not staying in the state to go to school. I did get myself in trouble, but in all honesty I was given the raw end of the deal. Still to this day I hold a grudge."

After off the field missteps botched plans for Moss to attend first Notre Dame and then Florida State, his two seasons at Marshall will be primarily remembered for outstanding on the field performance. His years at Marshall were marked by tremendous personal and team achievements.

While some may find it hard to believe, Randy Moss was called for only one personal foul in his 28-game Marshall career-a questionable taunting penalty as he high-stepped his way into the end zone at the end of a long touchdown reception against Toledo in the 1997 MAC Championship game in the blowing snow in Huntington.

"There's no question that the buzz about Moss was that he was a troublemaker coming out of college," said Sports Illustrated's Peter King. "I think that the NFL was afraid of this guy from day one."

While the Moss years at Marshall were not controversial in comparison to other seasons in his still-evolving football career, they were critical to his development as a football player and a person. Marshall provided Moss a stage on which to display his undeniable talent and in turn Randy helped bridge the gap for the Herd to move from I-AA power to the longest championship reign in MAC history.

For those who choose to believe that Moss left Marshall in his rear view mirror after bolting for the NFL two years early, that view could not be more off the mark. Randy Moss stays in touch with many of his former Herd teammates-including Chad Pennington.

Moss could barely contain his Marshall pride when (along with former Herd teammate Doug Chapman and former UCF quarterback Dante Culpepper) he took part in a taped segment from the Minnesota Vikings training camp that aired as part of ESPN2's coverage of the Central Florida-Marshall game on Friday night.

In the big picture, while Randy Moss has had plenty of highs and lows in his career, to consider his Marshall years as anything but one of the highest of the highs would be a gross misrepresentation.

That said, it sure would be great to see Randy Moss return to Marshall for a home game in the not too distant future.

HERD IN THE SPOTLIGHT (AGAIN):
While Marshall didn't perform as hoped at Virginia Tech, it's hard to argue with the amount of national media attention focused on the Thundering Herd for that prime time ESPN telecast in Blacksburg. While Marshall's on the field performance may have been lacking, its ability–along with Virginia Tech-to draw curious fans to the television set was not.

When the overnight TV ratings numbers rolled in, they were stronger than expected-much stronger. While admittedly we are still very early in the college football season, the ratings for the Marshall-Virginia Tech were the highest of the season for ESPN and ESPN2 - by a very large margin.

The Marshall-Virginia game on ESPN pulled in an outstanding 2.6 rating (4.4 share) and was seen in 2,245,000 households.

That's an impressive performance because all college football ratings are in the midst of a down turn, due to multiple game broadcasts and the continuing fragmentation of the total television audience pool.

Consider, the next highest rating for an ESPN college football broadcast prior to the Marshall-Virginia Tech game was Arizona State-Nebraska, which was seen in nearly a half a million fewer homes than the Herd and Hokies.

HERD CONNECTION TO UNLV:
Trent Williams never made it to the football field at Marshall, but is trying to correct that situation at UNLV. Williams spent three semesters at Marshall, but the San Francisco native never suited up for the Thundering Herd. The six-foot-one, 200-pound Williams joined the UNLV squad as a walk-on in the spring and turned some heads by collecting two tackles and an interception in the Rebels spring game.

Williams is sitting out this season after his transfer to UNLV from Marshall and hopes to earn a scholarship-not to mention some playing time-for the Rebels in 2003. Beginning next year, Williams will have three years of eligibility at UNLV.

JOHN ROBINSON REMEMBERS MARSHALL:
Speaking of the Rebels, legendary coach John Robinson is in the midst of his fourth year as the head coach at UNLV and his first season as the school's athletic director. Robinson is currently the only man to hold both of those positions simultaneously at a 1-A school.

Robinson does have some links to Marshall. Bob Pruett is currently the winningest active I-A coach (5-year minimum) with a 71-12 mark (.855). Among coaches from the non-BCS schools, Robinson is next on that list (No. 12 overall) at 120-58-4 (.659), although most of his college wins were accumulated during his two stints at Southern Cal. Pruett and Robinson are also linked in a category that is not quite pleasant. Both are victims in the current 16-game home winning streak put together by the Toledo Rockets. Marshall has two losses in that streak, the 42-0 nightmare at the Glass Bowl in 2000 and Toledo's 41-36 second-half comeback against the Herd in last year's MAC championship game.

Robinson's first-ever college game against a MAC team was an unpleasant experience last Saturday night in Toledo, as the Rockets ripped his UNLV Rebels 38-21.

While Robinson's night in Toledo isn't a good memory, he has nothing by praise for Huntington. After leaving the NFL's Los Angeles Rams in 1991, Robinson made his first (and so far only) trip to Huntington as the TV color analyst for the CBS broadcast of the I-AA Championship between the Herd and Youngstown State.

"I still remember that kick by Willie Merrick that won the game for Marshall (31-28). It was an emotional moment for that city and Marshall in the wake of the plane crash."


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