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Herd fans take over city for first home game

September 9, 2018

Marshall fans line up for the Thunder Walk before the Herd's home opener against EKU on Saturday outside of Joan C. Edwards Stadium in Huntington.

HUNTINGTON — Thousands of Thundering Herd fans descended on the city Saturday for Marshall University football’s first home game of the season at Joan C. Edwards Stadium against the Eastern Kentucky Colonels, which the Herd won 32-16.

Though the game did not start until 6:30 p.m., the tailgating began across town as early as noon for some — and earlier for others.

Gathering before home football games has been a lifelong tradition for some Herd fans, such as Jared Cornwell, 27, who said he has been a season ticket holder for both football and basketball his entire life, since his parents began bringing him to Marshall games.

“For me, it’s time for friends and family,” Cornwell said. “It’s six days a year the whole town comes together. People forget how fortunate we are to have a (Division I) school in Huntington. It’s tradition, it’s history, and I’m just glad to be a part of it. Game day is home.”

For others, such as Arrin Brooks, 25, pregame activities are a new tradition. Brooks, now in her fourth year as a graduate student pursuing an M.D. Ph.D., has only been a Marshall fan since she began undergraduate school in 2011.

Brooks’ husband was a Marshall cheerleader, so she would often attend games by herself to cheer him on from the end-zone seats in the student section.

“Now that we’re older, we don’t try to get that front-row end-zone seat, but that used to be one of our traditions,” Brooks said. “After graduating, hanging out before the game has become a new tradition.”

Brooks said the Marshall community is unique.

“It’s about Huntington coming together,” she said. “Game day is about coming together as a family. There’s a camaraderie that is lost on other teams. The student population tends to still get together, win or lose, to celebrate wins or pretend we didn’t lose.”

As far as expectations for the season, outlooks were generally positive. Brooks said she hopes for a winning season.

“I hope it’s going to be a winning season, win the conference championship and a bowl game, even if that’s just a hopeful outlook,” Brooks said.

Cornwell also had high hopes for how this year’s Thundering Herd will perform.

“I expect about a 9-3 season,” Cornwell said. “We have the potential to compete for a conference championship. We have the talent.”

The Thundering Herd will return to the Joan on Sept. 22 when they take on the North Carolina State Wolfpack. Kickoff is at 7 p.m.

Follow reporter Megan Osborne on Twitter @megosborneHD.

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