‘Group of Eight’ recalls ’14 WKU loss
HUNTINGTON — By now, college football followers know about the Group of Five, which refers to the so-called mid-major conferences.
Few know that Marshall has its own group, though — the Group of Eight.
The Group of Eight refers to eight redshirt seniors who signed with Marshall as part of the Class of 2014 and came onto campus that fall.
Members of the Group of Eight include linebackers Frankie Hernandez and Chase Hancock; offensive linemen Jordan Dowrey and Nate Devers; defensive tackles Ryan Bee and Malik Thompson; running back Keion Davis and wide receiver Donquell Green.
Those eight players were part of the 2014 Conference USA championship team, serving as scout squad members while sitting out of action during their redshirt season. Each received championship rings as part of that banner year for the Thundering Herd football program when the team finished ranked No. 23 nationally with a 13-1 record.
On the side of those rings are the Herd’s ranking and record, and seeing that 13-1 finish brings back memories.
Most of those memories are pleasant, but there is one memory — that “1” — that still causes the Group of Eight to cringe.
That memory is dated Nov. 28, 2014. That was the day that Western Kentucky walked into Joan C. Edwards Stadium and ended Marshall’s bid for a perfect season and a New Year’s Six bowl bid with a wild 67-66 overtime thriller.
That was also the first impression that Marshall’s Group of Eight (2-1) got of the Hilltoppers
(1-3), whom they face at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at Houchens/L.T. Smith Stadium in Bowling Green, Ky.
It is said a first impression is always the one that lasts. Well, that was an impression that none of those players will forget.
“It sticks out because that was the perfect season that we almost had,” Dowrey said. “That doesn’t happen. You very rarely get the opportunity to do that. Even though I wasn’t on the field, I was invested in that team, and so was Keion and the guys that were here at that time invested and cared and put a lot of effort into doing our part — our role on scout team and those sorts of things — so we wanted it as bad as those who were playing.”
Bee recalled what it was like watching from the sideline on that chilly November day.
“I remember that it was a crazy atmosphere and it was just heartbreaking,” Bee said. “Even though I wasn’t playing, it was heartbreaking to see it come down to an overtime two-point conversion. It hurts, whether you were playing or not. We keep that in there to focus and lock in that much more.”
For those redshirt seniors, there is also another thing about Western Kentucky that rings out, which Davis mentioned as he looked ahead following Saturday’s 37-20 loss to N.C. State.
“I’ve been here for four years and I’ve only beaten Western one time,” Davis said.
Marshall’s lone win against the Hilltoppers since Western Kentucky joined C-USA was last season when the Herd earned a 30-23 win at Joan C. Edwards Stadium.
While all the players remember that 2014 contest, Dowrey said the memory of that game has little bearing on what will happen Saturday in Bowling Green, Ky.
“At the end of the day, we’re a different team than we were then and they are a different team than they were then,” he said.
The Group of Eight will always remember the sting of that first impression of Western Kentucky in 2014. While that first impression can’t change, those players get a chance to leave the last impression Saturday.
MARSHALL (2-1) AT WKU (1-3)
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Saturday
WHERE: Houchens/L.T. Smith Stadium, Bowling Green, Kentucky
RADIO: WDGG 93.7-FM, ESPN 94.1-FM and 930-AM