Huntington Herald-Advertiser, November 20, 1971.
"We WILL be better . . ."
Jack Lengyel closed out the first season as Marshall University football coach -- the greatest challenge ever in collegiate athletics -- looking to the future.
His Young Thundering Herd had just absorbed its eighth defeat, 30-0, to arch rival Ohio University at rain-swept Fairfield Stadium. But, the Herd won two more games than most expected, the wins coming over Xavier in the home opener, and over Bowling Green to delight a homecoming throng.
Bill Rohr, athletic director of Ohio, interrupted Lengyel's discussion with newsmen just long enough to set the tone.
"Your freshmen have come a long way," said Rohr. "They gave our varsity a helluva football game."
Marshall ran into trouble in the second quarter, two fumbles setting up two Ohio touchdowns.
"Mistakes have plagued us all year," mused Lengyel, at the same time trying to rationalize. "But, we're a young football team, we can't lose sight of that, and we just haven't been consistent on offense."
Lengyel shouldered some of the blame for his team's troubles in the second quarter, drawing a 15-yard penalty for "unsportsmanlike conduct," going onto the field protesting OU's first touchdown.
The play was a six-yard pass from Dave Juenger to Tim Worner. Worner took the pass going out of the end zone on the west sideline.
"He had a foot in bounds when the pass first hit his hand," said Lengyel, "but I protested whether he had possession until after he was off the field. I still question it. But the penalty was my fault. I shouldn't have gone onto the field."
The 15 yards were stepped off against the Herd on the OU kickoff. The Bobcats caught the irritated Herd flat-footed with an onside boot, kicker Dave Green covering at the MU 34.
OU didn't convert the good field position into a score. Green's 27-yard field goal attempt missing. But, on the next MU play from the 20, freshman quarterback Steve Cooper was cut down by Jack LeVeck and his fumble opened the scoring door for the Bobcats again.
Lengyel started with an all-freshman backfield, as he'd indicated before the game. Cooper was directing from quarterback while Ned Burks and Terry Gardner were the runners.
Cooper gave way to sophomore Reggie Oliver mid-way through the second quarter, and after Cooper had been tackled hard, fumbling at his 19 to set up an easy OU touchdown.
"We rotated our quarterbacks," Lengyel continued, "trying to ignite a spark (under the offense). Burks is running well, but after the second quarter we know we've got to throw the football if we're going to catch up."
Cooper and Oliver combined hit 10 of 21 passes, but weren't connecting long. Their completions were limited to flairs, look-ins and screens for just 63 yards.
Burks gained 79 yards on 10 carries, and had Marshall's longest run from scrimmage, 44 yards from his own 45 to the OU 11. The Bobcat defense, however, rose up and stalled the Herd's best scoring bid.
Looking at the entire season, Lengyel is "proud of the effort. I think the kids have done a fine job, and as I said before I'm sure we'll get better.
"We've got a good nucleus to build around. The team's got to stay together. It did the best it could this year. It's been a good year in that respect; and that's all we, as coaches, can expect."
* * * *
The game was the last for senior defensive back Nate Ruffin, who was forced to leave the game early in the third quarter with a hand injury.
"I got it tangled in someone's helmet," said the Marshall captain, forcing a smile and recalling he "got a few good licks in before I had to come out."
He wanted so much to close out with a victory, but it just wasn't to be. Ruffin is one of three surviving varsity players from last year's team, missing the ill-fated flying trip to East Carolina last November because of an arm injury that has hampered his play all season. The others are juniors Flip Jordan and Ed Carter.
Ruffin's plans are incomplete, but there could be a spot for him on Lengyel's staff as a graduate assistant next fall.
"I guess this was my last game of organized football," he said.