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Golden Eagles special teams deliver victory over the Herd, 27-20;
Somberness and fun in Huntington
Huntington, WV - The Golden Eagles of Southern Miss (6-3, 4-2) took advantage of Marshall miscues on several occasions including some big ones on special teams to come away with a Conference-USA win, 27-20. Freshman Tracy Lampley especially put some hurtin' on the Thundering Herd (5-5, 3-3) setting a school record with 211 return yards including a 93-yard kickoff return for a touchdown. Marshall drove twice in the closing minutes but was thwarted near their own end zone on interceptions by Justin Wilson. Beyond their own failures on special teams, Marshall's final best opportunity to score was foiled by an inadvertent whistle on the field which should have resulted in either a penalty against the Eagles or a TD for the Herd. It resulted in neither. GGA Steve Cielsa and I made the nine-hour trip not just to see this C-USA game, but to attend the annual memorial service held in tribute to the 75 plane crash victims exactly 39 years to the day. It was somber yet uplifting ceremony well done by Marshall University. We were able to make some new acquaintances. Saturday evening after the game, we also cashed in on the opportunity to drink all the beer we wanted for $5 all evening. Too bad we had to drive back home nine hours on Sunday. It turned out to be an enjoyable and memorable trip.
Southern Miss was able to sustain its first drive of the game thanks to a roughing the kicker call against Marshall. The result was an 80-yard TD drive ending with Tory Harrison's one-yard plunge for a 7-0 USM lead. Craig Ratananorm's 27-yard FG early in the second put Marshall on the board now trailing, 7-3. The Herd extracted some form of vengeance on its next possession when a roughing the punter call worked in their favor to sustain a 68-yard touchdown drive. One play after the penalty, Aaron Dobson hauled in a 29-yard TD pass from Brian Anderson. Despite being sacked seven times, Anderson kept the Thundering Herd in the game completing 29 of 52 passes for 337 yards with one TD pass and two INTs. Southern Miss held Marshall in check on the ground all day holding them to 26 yards on 26 carries. Leading rusher Darius Marshall was helped off the field in the third and did not return to play.
Steve and I arrived near Joan C. Edwards Stadium at 9 am to explore the Marshall campus. None of the attendants there were too sure about the location of the noon time Memorial service, but one did give us good advice on where to park since all the spaces adjacent to the stadium were reserved for season ticket holders. We parked just as close on a street between a McDonald's and a church about 100 feet from the stadium. From there we explored Huntington and specifically the Marshal Campus. Another attendant told us that he thought the service would be held under a pavilion next to the stadium. Under the pavilion was a statue of a small bison. I knew that this wasn't the place. We were looking for a memorial fountain. This turned out to be a meeting place for the U of M Club to have their pre-game luncheons. We found the Memorial Service being set up by the fountain on the Memorial Student Center plaza. That made sense. We took a picture of fountain depicting "the living in the waters of life", and then proceeded to pick up a few items at the school bookstore. Steve and I returned to the plaza to take seats among a growing crowd. The student body president welcomed the crowd, Reverend Sam Moore gave the Invocation, and remarks were made by five members of the school's administration. All spoke briefly but effectively on this somber occasion. The keynote speaker was Joe Gillette, a member of the 1969 team who sat out the 1970 season with an injury. He reminisced about his friends who perished, and he shared some funny stories from his school days. He, like others, dwelled not on the tragedy experienced and remembered by many in attendance 39 years later, but he talked of how they lived on in the spirit of their school, epitomized by the cheer, "We are...Marshall!" A song was sung, the wreath was laid by the Huntington Fire Department who searched the woods that night near the airport for survivors, and found none. Next, the waters of life were turned off. The beautiful, sunny day stood still, wrapped in complete silence. The flow of the fountain ended as abruptly as the 75 lives lost that day. The names of each victim were read off as Marshall students lay white roses individually for each one on the fountain. The alma mater was sung by a choral class, and closing remarks were made. It was a simple and compelling ceremony to mark the 39th anniversary of this tragedy, something I always desired to attend for many years. For as a boy, I watched the quarterback from that team, Ted Shoebridge, play baseball several times for the Lyndhurst, NJ American Legion team and for the Lyndhurst Metropolitan League team at Bergen County Park in Lyndhurst when there visiting my grandparents. I remember hearing the news of the crash the day after it happened and my freshman high school football coach bringing it up at our Monday meeting. I also remember my late father picking me up after football practice that day to tell me, shockingly, that Ted Shoebridge had died in the crash. My father knew Ted had played baseball for "some small school down south" as he put it, but had no idea that he was quarterback for the Marshall football team. As an All-Star catcher in youth baseball, I didn't emulate pros I liked like Jerry Grote or Johnny Bench behind the plate. I was Ted Shoebridge! One of the neat things that happened on Saturday was that I was able to meet Ted's brother, Tom. The Marshall "M" Club happened to award him with an "M" blanket to make him a member of the school's lettermen club. After the ceremony, I got to meet briefly with Tom and tell him my story of having watched his brother play baseball and what it meant to me. We shared a few laughs and talked about some family I still have in Lyndhurst. The brief meeting certainly made our weekly football excursion even more worthwhile. He gave me his card to keep in touch. I plan to drop him a line.
Lampley got USM down to the Marshall 40 with a 60-yard kickoff return. Dan Hrapmann's kick for three was no good. However, Marshall's next special team miscue cost them a lot more than USM's missed FG. Dequan Bembry failed to call for a fair catch in a crowd, and his muff ended up in the Eagles possession with a first and ten at the 39. On the very next play, Martevious Young found Damion Fletcher wide open out of the backfield down the left sideline for a 39-yard TD pass to extend the lead. Michael Janac blocked the extra point to at least hold the Eagles within seven, 20-13.
In the fourth quarter Marshall stopped a USM drive on a fourth and one at their own 29. From there , they drove it run down the field where Terrell Edwards took it over from the one to tie it at 20-20. On the ensuing drive, USM took advantage of a mismatch with 6'6" DeAndre Brown going up over 5'10" Ahmed Shakoor for a 36-yard scoring strike with 6:54 left in the game. Marshall remained in striking distance at 27-20. Without TV coverage, there were only a few media time-outs, so the game flowed nicely. We just wondered how controversial calls could be reviewed. The answer is that they aren't. Bembry fielded a punt and got hit, and a whistle was blown. He slowed down. We figured a flag would follow as a result of a hit after a fair catch. Nobody on the field or in the stands knew what happened. No flag came out, everyone stopped, the Marshall coaching staff told Bembry to head for the end zone which he did as the officials started to convene. He waited in the end zone with the ball as the referees had a serious discussion. Marshall did not get any penalty yards assessed nor a touchdown! An inadvertent whistle stopped the play and they took over from their own 31. Wilson picked off his first of two long pass attempts by Anderson before the end. The home team couldn't muster anything after the officiating foul-up to end up on the short end of the Eagles 27-20 C-USA win. Southern Miss achieved bowl eligibility with its sixth win and draws a three-way tie for second in the East Division of C-USA. Marshall has two more chances for "bowldom" with meetings against Western leader SMU followed by a trip to UTEP. One may end up in the Eagle Bank Bowl we plan to attend again in Washington, D. C. on December 29.
Extra Points: The two head coaches come from OSU - two different OSUs that is. Mark Snyder came to Marshall from Ohio State where he was the Buckeye defensive coordinator five years ago. At 21-35, the Marshall fans are calling for the Marshall grads coaching career in Huntington to come to an end. Larry Fedora is in his third season with the Golden Eagles after serving as offensive coordinator at Oklahoma State. The last time we saw Larry, he was there in 2007 when his Cowboys overcame pass-happy Texas Tech in a 49-45 shootout! Mike Gundy claimed to be the Man!
Steve and I hit Buffalo Wild Wings on
Friday night. The chain is quickly becoming a CFF favorite the night
before a game on the road. After the Memorial Ceremony, we stopped in at
the Inn Between about a block from the stadium parking lot. Steve enjoyed
his burger and I a Reuben, but I also drank a Sam Adams Imperial White for the
first time. It's so good, I plan to bring some to Rhode Island for
Thanksgiving. We returned there after the game that evening to grab a beer
and get more food, but the kitchen was closed. WE went around the corner
to Fat Patty's for burger and beers and to watch college football on al the big
screens. I ordered a Bud for Steve and a Bud Light for myself. Jack
pot! We were told that if we continued to use our cups, we could drink all
the beer we wanted
Before the game, we stood