After 20 years, memories still fresh for Malashevich
HUNTINGTON — This week, Marshall University was scheduled to play the University of South Carolina for the first time since the Thundering Herd’s 24-21 stunner at Williams-Brice Stadium on Sept. 19, 1998.
It was supposed to be a 20-year reunion, of sorts, for the Thundering Herd’s first-ever victory against an opponent from the vaunted Southeastern Conference.
While Hurricane Florence canceled that reunion, it didn’t cancel the memories of that 1998 win, which featured Marshall kicker Billy Malashevich nailing a 37-yard field goal as time expired to give the Herd a landmark win in program history.
Malashevich, who now coaches special teams at Spring Valley High School, still remembers the kick as though it was yesterday: the snap, the hold, the kick - and the silence of almost 80,000 fans, except for one upper section of green-clad crazies in the corner of Williams-Brice Stadium.
“Going down there and playing at an SEC school in front of 80,000 people, obviously it was the biggest crowd I ever played in front of,” Malashevich said. “I was lucky to be the guy to get the opportunity to do that for us. The cool thing about it was that we had our faction of green up in the corner. Immediately after that kick, we all ran up to that corner of the stadium and enjoyed that moment with the fans.”
The kick was the first game-winner of Malashevich’s career at Marshall, but it would not take long for the next one to come.
In fact, the very next week, Malashevich again was called on to lift the Herd to victory in a 26-23 win at Eastern Michigan.
As Malashevich recalled, both were set up in the same fashion - with interceptions by Daninelle “Danny” Derricott.
“One of the most interesting things about South Carolina was the way it went down,” Malashevich said. “We intercepted a pass and had a return before I hit the field goal to win it. Well, the same exact thing happened the next week. We were at Eastern Michigan, Derricott intercepted a pass and I hit a field goal. The difference was that one week it was in front of 80,000 and that next week was in front of about 5,000.”
Those types of situations are pressure-packed, but looking back on it Marshall had some of its best in program history in the operation, which is the term used when talking about the snap, hold and kick.
Malashevich’s kick came off a snap from long snapper Chris Massey and a hold from punter Chris Hanson - both of whom went on to do the same duties in the NFL.
Honestly, Malashevich even said he couldn’t remember whether South Carolina tried to ice him and make him think about the kick - an uncertainty that his wife, Tina, clarified in saying the Gamecocks had called a timeout.
For Malashevich, kicking a football was not a pressure situation at that point in his life.
The day of that kick (Sept. 19, 1998) was also the day their oldest son, Trey, celebrated his one-month birthday after being born in the midst of preseason camp.
“My oldest, Trey, was born Aug. 19 that year,” Billy Malashevich said. “After becoming a father, it really made me more calm with that situation. Kicking a field goal pales in comparison to being a father.”
With Saturday’s game canceled, it is unsure when Marshall’s next visit to Williams-Brice Stadium will occur. It was a one-game contract with the Gamecocks, and no current talks are ongoing for a future contest.
No matter when it occurs, though, memories will always remain of the Herd’s first trip to Columbia, South Carolina.
At game’s end, there were two distinct sounds.
There was the sound of Malashevich’s foot hitting the ball, followed by the sound of 80,000 fans going silent.