Chuck Landon: MU comes through in epic style
TULSA, Okla. — Team Marshall won Thursday night.
It was a collective effort.
There was the 2013 edition, of course, but there was also the undeniable presence of the 1970 Thundering Herd.
What else would anyone expect from a game played on November 14?
After all, this was the 43rd anniversary of the horrific plane crash that claimed most of Marshall’s football team among the 75 victims while returning from a 17-14 loss at East Carolina.
This was the first time Marshall had played a road game on November 14 since that terrible night.
This was the game that Marshall circa 2013 paid tribute to its fallen forebears by wearing a well-placed, green “75” on the side of its helmet.
The left, of course.
The same side where the heart is located.
And isn’t heart what this game was all about? Isn’t that what every November 14 has been about since 1970?
Yes, yes, 43 times yes.
That’s why this game — of all games — was a joint effort by Team Marshall.
Would Marshall have rolled up a season-high 244 yards total offense in the first quarter without the inspiration of the 1970 Herd?
Would the Herd have gone into intermission with a 31-14 lead if Marshall’s players hadn’t watched the 43rd annual Memorial Fountain ceremony from Huntington via streaming video beamed into a conference room at Marshall’s team hotel here in Tulsa on Thursday afternoon?
Would Marshall have shown enough courage, enough fortitude, enough heart to mount a late rally for this 45-34 win over Tulsa before 16,723 fans at windy, mostly empty H.A. Chapman Stadium here on Thursday, if not for that large, green “75” on its helmets?
Not a chance.
Yes, this all happened on a Thursday night in the year of our Lord 2013, but this victory was just as much about the past as it was the present.
That’s why it put Marshall’s fans everywhere through such an emotional wringer. Granted, every November 14 does that. But this one was different.
And all because it was a road game. The first of its kind in 43 years.
Want to know how many times Marshall’s football program has won a road game on November 14th in school history?
Here on Thursday night.
In 1914, Marshall lost at Marietta, 20-7. And, then, there was the unforgettable loss of all losses in 1970.
Those three road games on that one particular date.
And that’s precisely why this win here on Thursday night was so epic in its importance. The 2013 Herd couldn’t let the 1970 team down. That would have been unpardonable.
That would have besmirched the “75” on Marshall’s helmets.
So, quarterback Rakeem Cato and his teammates didn’t allow it to happen.
Perhaps, Cato channeled his inner Ted Shoebridge while completing 33 of 58 passes for a career-high 456 yards and five touchdowns. And maybe Tommy Shuler got in touch with his inner Dennis Blevins when he caught the 18-yard, game-winning touchdown pass.
I would like to think so.
I would like to believe that.
I would like to envision smiles all around in “Herd Heaven” as Marshall’s 1970 players offer nods of approval for the current players’ grace under adversity.
But aren’t we supposed to be on Nov. 14?
Chuck Landon is a sports columnist for The Herald-Dispatch. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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