‘Memorial’ week helps re-focus Herd
HUNTINGTON — It was a tough weekend for Marshall University’s football team as the Thundering Herd dealt with the difficulties of a selfinflicted loss the team feels should’ve gone another way.
The thing about tough weekends, though, is they only last a couple of days.
Marshall players were re-focused Monday, eager to turn the page and get into preparation for the Charlotte 49ers, who come to Joan C. Edwards Stadium for a 2:30 p.m. Saturday matchup.
For the Herd (5-3, 3-2 Conference USA), this week isn’t about last week’s loss or any individualistic thoughts from that defeat.
This week is about the ‘Memorial’ game when Marshall will don its black jerseys and the “75” decal on the side of its helmets to honor 75 victims of the 1970 Marshall plane crash.
“We play with a little bit more intensity because we know what the purpose of this game is,” Marshall senior wide receiver Marcel Williams said. “We just need to make sure that we come out and do what we need to do and represent the ’75′ in a positive way. The ultimate goal of each week is to get a win, but it just means a little more to get a win this week.”
On Nov. 14, 1970, Southern Airways Flight 932 crashed during a landing attempt at Tri-State Airport,
killing all 75 persons aboard, including all 37 traveling players from Marshall’s 17-14 loss to East Carolina.
The effects on the university and the community are not lost on players, who run from Joan C. Edwards Stadium to Spring Hill Cemetery to visit the grave site and a memorial for crash victims.
Many players who are not from the area have seen the movie “We Are Marshall” and have spoken about the crash in the recruiting process, but that summertime journey to the cemetery with teammates brings it into a new perspective.
“It marked myself into history, so to say, because I was a part of something bigger than myself. ... ” Williams said. “At the end of the day, it opened my eyes to understand that football here is different from everywhere else. It means more than just football. It’s families, and it touches a lot of people with what happened on Nov. 14.”
This game is at a time when the Herd could have been at a crossroads.
Saturday’s 26-24 loss to Southern Miss came on the heels of many Herd mistakes that caused frustration and anger as a chance at a C-USA East Division championship went by the wayside. Following the loss, the team had a players-only meeting in the locker room at Southern Miss, and again Sunday during weight training, the point was drilled into the players that all eyes must be forward and all focus must be on Charlotte (4-5, 3-2) and honoring the “75.”
“Things could start to slip if you don’t focus the right way, and that’s always a possibility after a loss, but I don’t think that’s the kind of team that we are,” Marshall senior offensive lineman Jordan Dowrey said. “It definitely can’t happen now, and I think that mentality will prevent anything like that from happening. It will make sure that we are as focused as we can possibly be this weekend and we won’t have any letdown.”
Marshall junior safety Malik Gant said the togetherness of the team and community is the most important aspect as the Herd prepares for Charlotte.
“One of the reasons why I came to Marshall was because it’s not like any other school,” Gant said. “It’s way more than football. It’s a community that backs you up, no matter if you’re losing, winning, haven’t won a game yet because it’s more to them than just a football going into the air and who wins or loses.
“It’s a community that has had a tragedy unlike anywhere else. When you look at everything that’s based around this program, there’s just so much support throughout the whole community.”
CHARLOTTE (4-5, 3-2) AT MARSHALL (5-3, 3-2)
WHEN: 2:30 p.m. Saturday
WHERE: Joan C. Edwards Stadium, Huntington
RADIO: WDGG 93.7-FM, ESPN 94.1-FM and 930-AM, WMUL 88.1-FM