EKU coach, ex-Herd Morrison here for rise of ‘The Joan,’ MU program
HUNTINGTON — Eastern Kentucky co-defensive coordinator Shannon Morrison didn’t need anyone to show him around Joan C. Edwards Stadium when the Colonels got into Huntington on Friday.
Heck, Morrison watched the stadium known as “The Joan” being built back in 1990 and 1991.
“My dorm window over in (Twin) Towers would overlook the construction,” Morrison said. “I’d get up every morning, raise the shade and, ‘OK, what’s new in construction today?’ To see that thing built and being able to be a part of it at the ground level of where the program is to now is very much a matter of pride for me, as far as what we were able to establish as a team for the groups going forward.”
The 1990 Oak Hill graduate joined Marshall’s program out of high school and became a standout defensive back for the Thundering Herd during his career.
It didn’t take long for Morrison to recall the greatest memory of his Marshall career, which went from 1990-94 and featured some of Marshall’s most successful years.
“Obviously, the ’92 national championship game,” Morrison said. “That sticks out because it was the first national championship for the school and it was at home. There were a lot of emotions with the fans during the game and after the game. That was by far my best memory there.”
In a way, Saturday’s matchup brought that 1992 championship run full circle for Morrison. To open that run, Marshall defeated Eastern Kentucky, 44-0, at Joan C. Edwards Stadium. That was the last time the two programs played. Still, that wasn’t the memorable Marshall-Eastern Kentucky matchup for Morrison. Instead, that was the 1991 matchup in the I-AA playoffs when Morrison was a redshirt freshman for the Herd.
“I think it was the semifinals,” Morrison said. “We beat them 14-7 in the Joan whenever they had a high ranking. They were No. 1 or No. 2. Those guys walked off the bus and that was a good-looking football team. It was a battle, and we had a late goal-line stand. To be honest, we had no business beating them, but we beat them and it put us in the finals in 1991.”
At that time, there was a bid process to host playoff games, which meant Marshall, No. 8 in the I-AA rankings, was able to host Eastern Kentucky, who was ranked No. 2, in that semifinal contest.
Morrison said that game showed the power of Marshall’s home-field advantage at Joan C. Edwards Stadium, which opened 27 years ago this week. To this date, Marshall still owns the nation’s highest home winning percentage for venues over 10 years old with a 155-32 all-time mark (82.9 percent).
In Morrison’s mind, that 1991 contest with EKU also served as THE turning point for Marshall’s football program.
“To me, that was an upset,” Morrison said. “They were the higher-ranked team and they were predicted to win the game, but we found a way, as a team, to win that game. I remember that one more than 1992 because we were still wondering as a team how good we really were.
“That game, more than anything, set us up for the season we had in 1992 because we had the confidence that, hey, we’re a pretty good football team and we had a chance with everyone back. That game in ’91 is what propelled us into believing in what we were doing.”
Morrison said he “lost two, maybe three” games at Joan C. Edwards Stadium in his career, so he knew firsthand how tough that Saturday might be.
No matter the outcome, however, Morrison was pleased to return to the place that produced so many memories for him in football.
Morrison may have been on the visiting sidelines on Saturday, but a big part of him still felt at home.
HALL OF FAME WEEKEND: On Saturday, Marshall celebrated Hall of Fame Weekend, which honored eight players who were inducted into the Marshall Athletics Hall of Fame as the Class of 2018.
Those former athletes included:
• Garland Barnhart, football, track and field, 1950-54
• Kelly-Anne Billingy, volleyball, 2004-07
• Dewey Klein, football, 1988-91
• Josh Davis, football, 2001-04
• Dave Piepenbrink, base-ball, 1987-90 (player), 1998-2006 (coach)
• Jessica Williams-Sweat, softball, 2003-06
• Sikeetha Shepard-Hall, women’s basketball, track and field, 2002-06
• Erica West, women’s track and field, 1987-90
The Hall of Fame members were honored at a banquet in Don Morris Room at the Marshall Memorial Student Center on Friday night before being recognized on the field before Saturday’s contest.
GREAT SCOTT?! Eastern Kentucky backup quarterback Austin Scott came into the game midway through the first quarter and promptly completed both of his passes by the end of the quarter.
The only problem for the Colonels was that he completed both to players wearing a Marshall uniform.
Scott’s first pass was deflected by Chase Hancock, and safety Brandon Drayton camped under it for the interception, which set up a touchdown to Tyre Brady.
Scott’s second pass came just before the end of the period and was a deep ball into double coverage that Jaylon McClain-Sapp dived to catch.
The interceptions were the first in the careers of both players.
WHO WANTS DESSERT? For fans who had a sweet tooth as they sat in their seats at Joan C. Edwards Stadium, a remedy was on the way.
The first half offered up a six-pack of turnovers between the two teams.
Marshall lost possession three times, twice when EKU punts hit blockers for the Herd and bounded into the arms of a Colonel, and another when a pass from Isaiah Green bounced off Tyre Brady and into the arms of EKU linebacker Leodis Moore III.
Eastern Kentucky had the two aforementioned interceptions by Scott, who later added a third when Malik Thompson got pressure up the middle and deflected a deep ball, which Frankie Hernandez intercepted and returned to the EKU 4 to set up a score.
HERD TIES: In addition to Morrison, Eastern Kentucky running back Ellis Cain started his career at Marshall before transferring to join the Colonels.
Also, EKU freshman defensive back Daulson Fitzpatrick is the son of former Marshall player Rory Fitzpatrick, who played for the Herd from 1986 to 1989.