Photo courtesy of Marshall athletics
It was another exciting Saturday in college football, but maybe not as exciting as initially anticipated.
Due to COVID-19 protocols, more than a dozen games were either postponed or canceled. For Marshall however, the day was bigger than what took place on the field.
On what was the 50th anniversary of the infamous plane crash that killed 75 players, coaches, staff members and crew members, the Thundering Herd took the field in Huntington on Saturday. No. 16 Marshall was near flawless in a 42-14 romp over Middle Tennessee.
Its effort was good enough to earn the honors of Fifth Quarter Team of the Week for Week 11.
A Day of Remembering
Although Huntington was unable to lure College Gameday, it was a day of great significance. On Nov. 14, 1970, Southern Airways Flight 932 crashed more than 4,000 feet from the runway.
75 people were killed. There were no survivors.
One of the few coaches not present was defensive coordinator Red Dawson, who happened to be recruiting. Dawson was named interim head coach and was determined for Marshall to return to the field in 1971.
With the help of a waiver from the NCAA allowing freshmen to become eligible, the Thundering Herd did just that. Marshall went just 2-8 in 1971, but have accomplished a great many things since. That includes two Division I-AA (now FCS) titles, five MAC championships, three AP top-25 finishes and 12 bowl victories.
As for Saturday’s contest, it was never really in doubt. Middle Tennessee drew even at 7-7 early in the second quarter, but a pair of touchdown passes from Grant Wells in the final 3:08 of the first half turned a close game into a rout.
Wells would finish with 336 yards passing, five touchdowns and no interceptions in the win. As a team, Marshall put up 520 yards of offense. Willie Johnson and Corey Gammage each caught a pair of touchdowns in the win.
Defensively, Marshall held the Blue Raiders to less than 4.5 yards per play and forced three turnovers. Nazeeh Johnson led Marshall with 13 total tackles while Tavante Beckett came up with a pair of fumble recoveries in the win.
Marshall added 184 yards rushing in the win. Middle Tennessee quarterback Asher O’Hara passed and rushed for a touchdown in the loss.
With the win, Marshall improved to 7-0. The Thundering Herd moved up one spot in this week’s AP Poll to No. 15.
Marshall can take a big step toward clinching the Conference USA East division on Saturday when it plays host to Charlotte. A 24-13 loss to the 49ers last year would ultimately cost Marshall a shot at the conference crown.
Saturday’s contest begins at 12:30 p.m. ET. It will air regionally on Fox Sports Networks.