HUNTINGTON — When Marshall and East Carolina get together, there are many things that can be expected.
You can expect a rivalry.
You can expect admiration.
You can expect camaraderie of two fan bases bound by tragedy.
And you can expect points and excitement.
In 10 of the 15 meetings between the teams coming in, the winner had scored at least 33 points and games had featured some big numbers by the offenses.
Saturday was no different as the game featured more than 1,200 yards of total offense and 80 points in East Carolina’s 42-38 rally past the Herd.
There were plenty of wild plays, including a deflected pass off the hands of Xavier Gaines that Corey Gammage ran under for a 46-yard gain.
There was also an 88-yard touchdown run from East Carolina’s Keaton Mitchell, which came after a first quarter in which the Pirates had just one yards rushing.
In all, the first half featured four touchdowns of 20 yards or more and the teams went up and down at a frenetic pace.
Nothing was as wild as the Pirates scoring 21 points in the fourth quarter to earn the comeback win, though.
BIG PERFORMANCES: Marshall had a pair of big performances from offensive skill players in the loss.
Running back Rasheen Ali rushed for 189 yards and three touchdowns while Gammage hauled in eight passes for 180 yards.
THE REAL McCOY: Marshall defensive back Cory McCoy continued his stellar play for the Herd on Saturday night.
In the first half alone, McCoy had seven tackles, two tackles for loss, including a sack and a fumble recovery.
GRAY AREA: For the second straight week, Marshall linebacker Charlie Gray forced a fumble that turned into points for the Herd.
Gray’s hit on East Carolina wide receiver C.J. Johnson jarred the ball loose and McCoy jumped on the ball to give the Herd possession at the ECU 37.
Six plays later, Grant Wells found Willie Johnson for a touchdown.
THINGS EVENED OUT: Marshall appeared to catch a break when a touchdown pass from ECU’s Holton Ahlers to Tyler Snead was called back after Snead stepped out of bounds at the Herd 28.
Undaunted, the two connected three plays later as Snead hauled in a 22-yard scoring pass on a third-and-6 down the seam.
THUNDERING MUSKETEERS: Rich Kase donned a blue and white Xavier University shirt and a green and white Marshall University cap.
The former Musketeers linebacker played against the Thundering Herd in 1971 when MU stunned Xavier with a 15-13 victory, scoring on the last play of the game at Fairfield Stadium for the first victory after the Nov. 14, 1970 plane crash.
“I was wearing this shirt, so I had to buy this hat,” Kase said while tailgating with members of the 1971 Young Thundering Herd outside Joan C. Edwards Stadium before MU’s game with East Carolina on Saturday.
Kase was one of five former Xavier players in town for a celebration of the 1971 Marshall team.
“I never dreamed it would be as emotional as it has been,” said former Xavier lineman Mike Sherrett. “To touch the hands of these guys who changed the face of college football, it’s a thrill.”
Xavier dropped football in 1973. Sherrett said he has adopted Marshall as his favorite college football team.
“I’m proud to represent Xavier University, but our football program was gone in 1973,” Sherrett said. “Your rebirth in 1971 really inspired a lot of schools to keep their programs. Ours is gone, so now I embrace the Herd.”
FUN MEMORY: It’s hard to believe that it has been 10 years since “The Catch” at Joan C. Edwards Stadium.
Against East Carolina in 2011, Marshall wide receiver Aaron Dobson went up and caught a one-handed, backhand touchdown reception that helped lift the Herd in a 34-27 overtime win over the Pirates that made the Herd bowl eligible.
Dobson’s catch was an instant internet sensation and was an ESPYs finalist that year. To date, it has more than 2.1 million views.
HERD-ECU MEMORIES: East Carolina’s last three trips to Huntington have featured memorable games.
In 2011, Marshall came away with the aforementioned 34-27 overtime win that made the Herd bowl eligible and ended the Pirates’ season.
In 2013, the two teams locked up in Huntington with Conference USA’s East Division title on the line. The Pirates were favored, but Marshall earned a 59-28 win to take the East and advance to its first Conference USA Championship game.
Then, on Saturday night, East Carolina’s rally from 17 down stunned the crowd at Joan C. Edwards Stadium in the Pirates’ 42-38 comeback.
Herald-Dispatch reporter Tim Stephens contributed to this report.