College Football: RedHawks resume rivalry with Marshall

Almost 50 years have passed, but the score continues to resonate.

Miami 66, Marshall 6. An outcome that turned a routine series into a bitter rivalry.

The game was played Oct. 2, 1971, at old Miami Field in Oxford. Marshall was in its first season since losing its entire team in a plane crash the previous season. The Thundering Herd had pulled off an improbable upset of Xavier a week earlier, but was no match for the RedHawks, then known as the Redskins.

“The Miami players had seemingly performed pregame background checks, and knew names and information about Marshall players,” Chuck McGill wrote in a story that appeared on the university’s athletics website, “The Miami players taunted and disparaged us at the line of scrimmage, even as the score got out of hand.

“A crowd of 12,649 saw Marshall finish with two total yards of offense — 23 passing and minus-21 on the ground. It was the Herd’s worst loss in 41 years.”

“We came into town and we never dreamed about winning,” recalled Allen Meadows, who played for Marshall in that game, in the story. “They were a whole lot better than us. We gave it everything we had and when we walked away at the end of the day, it was a sad day. The worst part is they never substituted. They played their first team the entire game. From that time on there was no Ohio U. rivalry for us. It was all Miami.

“We hated Miami.”

Newspaper accounts report that Miami used 64 players in the game.

“It wasn’t our purpose to run up the score,” Miami coach Bill Mallory is quoted as saying. “Everybody played a terrific game. We used everybody we could.”

After a two-year hiatus, the rivalry resumes Saturday when Miami travels to Huntington, W.Va., to face a Thundering Herd team trying to get back on track after finishing the 2016 season 3-9, snapping at three a streak of consecutive seasons with 10 or more wins.

“Marshall is super-talented,” fourth-year RedHawks coach Chuck Martin said. “That was really a down year for them. They’re rolling out one of the better teams in the country.”

Junior quarterback Chase Litton returns to lead the Thundering Herd offense after going 231-of-371 for 2,612 yards and 24 touchdowns while throwing just nine interceptions last season.

“Their quarterback is typical Marshall,” Martin said of the 6-foot-6, 232-pound Litton, bemoaning his luck at facing Marshall in 2014 with a senior quarterback and coming back two years later to face an experienced, accomplished junior. “They do a good job of spreading it out.”

Martin described Marshall’s defense as “balanced.”

“They’ll play cover-3,” he said. “They’ll play cover-4. They’ll bring man pressure. They’ll bring zone pressure. They’re athletic and twitchy.

“They have athleticism on both sides of the ball. They’re similar to Cincinnati with their athleticism. They have athletes at every position. They’ll spread the field and whip it around.”

The RedHawks hope to build on their furious finish to the 2016 regular season, when they reeled off six straight wins — all in the MAC — to forge a tie with Ohio for the East Division championship and earn a berth in the St. Petersburg (Fla.) Bowl, where they lost by one point to Mississippi State. The surge coincided with quarterback Gus Ragland’s return from a knee injury he suffered in spring practice that required surgery. Ragland, a fourth-year junior, threw for 1,537 yards and 17 touchdowns with just one interception.

Also back are last season’s top three rushers, fourth-year juniors Alonzo Smith and Kenny Young and true junior Maurice Thomas, and top three receivers — junior wide receiver James Gardner, fifth-year senior wide receiver Jared Murphy and senior tight end Ryan Smith.

Defensively, Miami’s top five tacklers return, led by senior safety Tony Reid and junior linebacker Junior McMullen.

The RedHawks have been picked to finish second behind Ohio in the East Division in preseason coaches and media polls.

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