Local fans lament another loss at WVU's hands
HUNTINGTON -- It's a good thing Giovanni's has good pizza. That was the only thing Thundering Herd fans who packed the restaurant on 3rd Avenue and 20th Street Saturday to watch the game against West Virginia University were satisfied with.
Marshall lost the game, 24-7, after leading the entire first half. Missed opportunities, turnovers and mistakes were what fans were blaming the outcome on.
But early on, there was plenty to cheer about. The Herd defense was forcing three-and-outs, and quarterback Brian Anderson was making big plays with his legs and through the air. It was Anderson's 12-yard scamper on the first offensive drive that led to a 7-0 lead.
"The first half performance was very impressive," said 22-year-old Marshall grad student Gabrielle Gardner, who watched the game at the Memorial Student Center.
It also had John Rybak and his son, Tyler Wood, excited, along with two dozen other people at Giovanni's. He said there's something about being around other fans for such an important game.
"It's a big game, and you get the atmosphere and crowd," Rybak said. "You get into the game."
He said he and his son attend a lot of Marshall football games together but seeing a victory against WVU would have trumped them all.
That also was the hope of James and Barbette Slone and Charla Brand, who arrived at Giovanni's early to grab the table directly in front of the big-screen TV.
But Marshall's offensive game plan was quickly squashed. A fumble by star running back Darius Marshall inside the 10-yard-line threw away a prime scoring opportunity. And an Anderson interception in the waning minutes of the second quarter led to a Mountaineer field goal in the last minute before the end of the half.
The third quarter didn't get any better, and the 7-3 lead quickly faded.
"My heart sank after WVU's second touchdown," Gardner said.
She said the Friends of Coal Bowls are more about politics than football and wouldn't be disappointed to see the one-sided rivalry end when the contract expires after the 2012 season.
"It's almost a mockery," she said. "I wouldn't be disappointed if the series stopped."