The closest game in the series was the first game in Morgantown, W.Va., when College Football Hall of Fame member Harry "Cy" Young, of Huntington, led the Herd at quarterback, defensive back and punter/kicker against the West Virginia team. The Herd fell on a late punt block by the Mountaineers that turned into five points (not six for TDs until 1912) and helped WVU beat Marshall, 17-15. The two teams joined the West Virginia Athletic Association in 1913 and met as league members with home-and-home games in Morgantown in 1914 (a 20-0 WVU win) and in Huntington in 1915.
That game became the biggest win in West Virginia history when the Mountaineers won 92-6, but is more remembered for Marshall avoiding a shutout by scoring on the "Tower Play." Quarterback Brad Workman threw to running back Dayton "Runt" Carter, who stood on the shoulders of Herd tackle Okey "Blondie" Taylor in the end zone. A protest by West Virginia officials went for not as Marshall made the score and won bets for Huntington locals, who had bet WVU fans whose coach, Sol Metzger, said, "If Marshall scores in the game, I'll eat my hat." What he did was run up the score after Marshall coach Boyd "Fox" Chambers (Marshall class of 1901) lived up to his name. Walter Camp, the father of college football rules, upheld the score but changed the record for the 1916 season, one of three NCAA rules changes Marshall had a direct influence on including freshman eligibility, when the "Young" Thundering Herd was allowed to play freshmen after the 1970 crash wiped out nearly the whole MU team, and the sock rule of 1997, after Randy Moss, Doug Chapman and Ricky Hall wore "Cat In The Hat" socks during the Herd's run to the National Championship in the now Football Championship Subdivision in 1996 with a 15-0 mark.
The teams met once more, an 81-0 WVU win in 1923, until 1997. Marshall played at West Virginia in its first game in Division I-A, falling 42-31. The Herd found itself in a 28-3 hole to Coach Don Nehlen's Mountaineers before Chad Pennington and Moss led MU back to lead 31-28 entering the third quarter. The WVU defense, led by defensive end Gary Stills' pressure on Pennington, created two turnovers in the fourth quarter that quarterback Mark Bulger and Amos Zereoue turned into the scores for the win. Marshall had an option for three more games in 1998-99-2000, but could not reach an agreement with West Virginia for any of those games to be played in Huntington and did not pick up the option.
The Friends of Coal Bowl winner in the football match-up between the Marshall Thundering Herd and the West Virginia Mountaineers will take home the all-new Friends of Coal Bowl trophy, this year presented to the winner of the game on the field after the contest.photo by Rick Haye for Herd Insider
Enter West Virginia alum, former quarterback and Governor of the state, Joe Manchin, in 2004. Winning the election, Manchin brought together good friends Bob Marcum of MU and Ed Pastilong of WVU, the Directors of Athletics, at the Governor's residence in Charleston and hammered out a deal that put games in Morgantown in 2006, 2008, 2010 and 2012, in Huntington 2007 and 2011 while the 2009 game will be at the winner of two of the first three games. The deal was sealed by two graduates of the WVU Law School, West Virginia President David Hardesty and interim MU President Mike Farrell.
In last year's game, West Virginia dominated the contest in a 42-10 win, taking a 6-0 lead in the series. The first two games have been played in front of sellout crowds, Marshall first sellout since a 2000 expansion from 30,000 seats (12 sellouts at that size) to a current 38,019 while WVU had one of its best crowds at down-sized Milan Puskar Stadium at Mountaineer Field with over 61,000. Marshall and West Virginia have had record season tickets sales since the series was announced in 2005.
Chubb Small looked for running room in the first half against WVU last season. Small is joined at running back by fellow junior Kelvin Turner and freshmen Darius Marshall and Terrell Edwards for the first game at Huntington between MU and WVU since 1915.
WVU is led by Heisman Trophy candidates Pat White (who ran for 97 yards last week and hit 10-of-18 passes for four touchdowns) and Steve Slaton (109 yards rushing and four scores, three on the ground) under coach Rich Rodriquez, who led WVU to back-to-back BCS Bowl wins. WVU is ranked No. 3 in the nation by the AP, the highest ranking in school history and the highest-ranked team to visit Marshall.
The Herd fell at the final opener for the Miami Hurricanes at the Orange Bowl, 31-3, in the first game as head coach for Randy Shannon. Shannon has been with the Miami program 14 of the last 18 years, playing and coaching two years each in the NFL, and has won three of Miami National Championships as a member of the 'Canes. Marshall played well on defense, but was hampered with a dozen penalties, four turnovers and too many third-and-long situations. The Herd played 10 true or red-shirt freshmen in the game, and lost starting defensive end John Jacobs during the game which added to the depth problem already there, with Conference USA Defensive Player of the Year Albert McClellan, the other D-end, and starting corner Zearrick Mathews both out. Mathews may return for the New Hampshire or Cincinnati games, Jacobs is back this week but McClellan is out for the year.
Patton held up two fingers signifying Marshall's second-consecutive win over West Virginia. Marshall fans hope to celebrate Saturday like they did at the Charleston Civic Center in 2006 when the Herd beat No. 9 WVU, 58-52. The basketball teams have split the last six games with three wins, three losses.photo by Matt Riley for Herd Insider
Marshall received some good news this week at tailback, as 6-foot, 215-pound freshman tailback Terrell Edwards was given permission to return to the team when he cleared the NCAA Clearing House. Marshall is still hopeful of getting back Vinny Curry, a freshman defensive end, who is also waiting on the clearing house. The Herd will have 20 state of West Virginia natives on the roster, and seven of those are in the two-deep: center Doug Legursky (Beckley), back-up center Matt Altobello (Keyser), guard Josh Evans (Fayetteville), back-up linebacker Will Albin (Princeton), back-up defensive tackle Joe Bragg (Morgantown), back-up punter Jake Fields (Hurricane) and back-up long snapper Jeremy James (St. Albans).