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Hey Dabo, Herd went 15-0, too

January 15, 2019

Welcome to “Second Guess” Tuesday.

Opinions are like snowflakes. No two are alike.

• Guess again, Clemson. There Clemson head football coach Dabo Swinney stood on national television proclaiming the Tigers as the first 15-0 team in college football history.

Really, Dabo?

In that case, here’s a history assignment for William Christopher Swinney. Check the football record books in 1996. Then, look up “M” for Marshall.

And what to his wondrous eyes will appear? A 15-0 record.

In iconic Bobby Pruett’s first season as Marshall University’s head football coach, he led the Thundering Herd to arguably the most dominating season in collegiate football history. Not only did Marshall post a 15-0 record and win the NCAA I-AA national championship, the Herd also out-scored its opponents 658-210.

Marshall averaged 43.9 points while yielding merely 14.0. That means the Herd won every game by nearly 30 points. Thirty points!

Yet, Clemson’s athletic department still sent out a post-game release claiming to be the one and only 15-0 ball club.

“Clemson became the first major college football team in the modern era to go 15-0,” read the release. “No major college football team had won 15 games since the 19th century when Penn posted a 15-0 mark in 1897.”

Tsk, tsk, tsk.

What makes this error of omission even more egregious is the fact Clemson should be very cognizant of Marshall’s football program. After all, the Thundering Herd defeated Clemson, 13-10, at “Death Valley” on Sept. 4 in the opening game of the 1999 season.

Clemson doesn’t seem to remember that game, but Marshall’s fans certainly do.

Running back Doug Chapman roared seven yards into the end zone with 1:10 remaining to clinch the victory. But that’s just part of the story about that 11-play, 76-yard drive engineered by quarterback Chad Pennington.

The fact of the matter is the drive was more like 130 yards when all the penalty yardage from the ACC officiating crew is added to the total.

Yet, Marshall still won.

Shall I spell it out?

M-A-R-S-H-A-L-L.

That’s the name of the football program that compiled a 15-0 record 23 years before Clemson

Have a nice day, Dabo.

• Don’t be surprised if Brad Lambert is named as Marshall’s new defensive coordinator.

It will be a homecoming of sorts for Lambert since he actually started his collegiate coaching career at Marshall in 1990. Head coach Jim Donnan hired Lambert to be the Herd’s secondary coach. He remained in that position through the 1995 season and, then, left to serve on Donnan’s coaching staff at the University of Georgia.

More recently, Lambert has been known as Charlotte’s head football coach in Conference USA. He started the 49ers program in 2011 and compiled a 22-48 record before not being retained after the 2018 season.

The irony is 2018 was Lambert’s best season as Charlotte compiled a 5-7 overall record and went 4-4 in C-USA.

Lambert would be an excellent hire for Marshall.

• Speaking of hires. ...

West Virginia native Tony Gibson, who was West Virginia University’s defensive coordinator, has been hired by N.C. State as the Wolfpack’s new co-defensive coordinator.

Gibson will join former Marshall standout George Barlow on the defensive coaching staff.

• Marshall saved face for the Mountain State.

The Herd kept Western Kentucky from sweeping “Almost Heaven” with a 70-69 win Saturday night. Earlier this season, the Hilltoppers beat WVU, 63-57.

Nice distinction, Herd.

Chuck Landon is a sports columnist for The Herald-Dispatch. Contact him at clandon@herald-dispatch.com.

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