My suggestion to every college football fan is the same as it was earlier last season: Make your next download or your next DVD rental We Are…Marshall!
The 2006 film, starring Matthew McConaughey and Matthew Fox, is based on a true story of a community’s rise from the ashes of the worst airline disaster in sports history.
On Nov. 14, 1970, a Southern Airways charter jet returning 75 Marshall University football players, coaches, and boosters from a loss at East Carolina University to the college town of Huntington, W. Va., crashed on approach to Tri-State Airport. There were no survivors.
Added to that tragedy is the compelling drama that was the struggle to keep the beloved football program alive against all odds. They did, fielding a team of freshmen and walk-ons and (I’m not giving away any secrets here) winning their first home game.
Marshall has this incredibly powerful intangible that no school wants. Still, after almost 39 years, "The Crash," as it is called, drives The Herd, giving them the propensity to do the improbable.
I know Marshall better than many West Virginia University graduates. I spent my teen years in the late '60s and the early '70s following them as fervently as I rooted for the Mountaineers.
I went to school there, and for one brief day as a high school senior considered walking on until I discovered that, even with a 1-10 record, the Marshall players had no necks and torsos that looked like big sacks full of bowling balls.
They would have broken me in half, and therein is my reasoning: MU seems like a patsy, but the college has throughout its history demonstrated the innate ability to, at any time and anywhere, win football games they shouldn’t win. Here’s a short list:
1971: Xavier, surprised in the second game after the jetliner tragedy, by the team named the Young Thundering Herd.
That doesn’t include the near-misses:
1995: AP No. 11 North Carolina State in Raleigh, victorious over I-AA Marshall only by a last-minute fourth down pass-interference call against The Herd. The flag was late, thrown seemingly after the ref deliberated for some time about its national implications. It was one of the worst homers in the annals of college football.
1997: West Virginia, in Morgantown, with Randy Moss and Chad Pennington, yet only one good offensive line away from Herd Nirvana.
Even considering my status as a Marshall fan, that WVU defeat would have angered me. So will this year's, if it happens.
That’s the key. Marshall, lowly Marshall, has absolutely nothing to lose. Nothing. By this, they are by far the most dangerous opponent on the WVU schedule.
I think WVU will beat Marshall, and I want WVU to beat Marshall like a cheap drum, but this year The Herd has come together. They have the athletes at the skill positions, one badass defensive front seven, and 85 scholarship players who want to save Mark Snyder's job.