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Tulsa staff joins in tribute to '75'

Nov. 15, 2013 @ 01:06 AM

TULSA, Okla. — It was a once in 75 lifetimes opportunity.

So, Russ Hoffman seized the emotional moment.

When the University of Tulsa’s head equipment manager learned Marshall University was going to wear a large, green “75” decal on the left side of its football helmets during its 45-34 win over Tulsa here on Thursday night, Hoffman knew he had to have one of those special headgears.

And since equipment managers have a barter system all their own, it wasn’t out of the question.

Yet, why would a guy who has spent the last seven seasons as the Golden Hurricane’s head equipment manager want this particular Marshall helmet as a keepsake?

Ah, there’s the rest of the story.

The scenario began to unravel when The Herald-Dispatch revealed Marshall’s game here against Tulsa would be the Herd’s first road game on Nov. 14 since the horrific plane crash in 1970.

It meant MU’s football players, coaches and athletic officials wouldn’t be able to attend the 43rd annual ceremony at the Memorial Fountain located on Marshall’s campus in Huntington commemorating the 75 victims of the crash that killed most of Marshall’s football team.

That’s why Marshall officials announced Sunday that MU would pay tribute to the 1970 team and the victims of the crash by wearing the “75” decal on their helmets during the game on Thursday.

And that’s when Hoffman felt a tug.

On his heart?

Yes.

But also on his roots.

That’s because Hoffman is a native of Bethany, W.Va., a former student manager in Marshall’s football program and a 2002 graduate of MU with a degree in sports marketing and management.

So, there’s another indication of just how far and wide the reach of the Herd Universe extends.

And as for cynics that think Marshall has wept enough, remembered enough, memorialized enough and should move on from the crash?

Ask Russ Hoffman.

Oh, by the way, he received a Marshall helmet.

CLASS ACT: That’s what Tulsa’s athletic department was here Thursday.

The Fox Sports 1 national telecast was scheduled to kickoff at 7:35 p.m. But, then, Tulsa’s sports information department checked the 1970 crash timeline on The Herald-Dispatch website and discovered the exact time the tragedy occurred was precisely 7:36 p.m.

So, Tulsa contacted, first, Marshall and, then, FS1 to see if there were any objection to moving the kickoff back one minute as a tribute to the 1970 Marshall squad and the crash victims.

And that’s what happened.

Tulsa officials treated the crash anniversary with taste, thoughtfulness and unparalleled class.

ROAD KILL: There’s a reason Marshall is 2-3 on the road this season. It’s called turnovers. And there’s nothing that will defeat a team faster on the road.

In five road games, Marshall has committed a stunning 15 turnovers. Yes, three per game.

The Herd committed four in a 34-31 loss at Ohio, three in a 29-21 triple overtime defeat at Virginia Tech, only one during a 24-23 last-second win at FAU, two in a 51-49 loss at Middle Tennessee State and a whopping five against Tulsa.

Marshall had to overcome committing five fumbles and losing four just during the second half Thursday night. Add one interception and that’s the recipe for winning the hard way.

IN THE ZONE: There has been one constant about Marshall junior quarterback Rakeem Cato during his career.

He never ever throws an interception in the red zone.

Until Thursday night here, that is.

On a first-and-goal from Tulsa’s 9-yard line with only 23 seconds remaining in the first quarter, Cato threw the first red zone pick of his career.

That means Cato has tossed 49 touchdown passes in the red zone against only one interception.

Still, a 49-to-1 ratio is not shabby.

ADIOS, TULSA: This was the last roundup for this football series.

Since the Golden Hurricane is departing Conference USA after this season to join the exodus to the American Conference, this was the fifth and final game of the series.

The good news for Marshall is the Herd finally beat the Golden Hurricane. Until the win on Thursday night, Marshall trailed in the series, 0-4.

Adios, indeed.

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