Marshall continues winning tradition
Posted: Saturday December 19, 1998 01:52 PM
HUNTINGTON, West Virginia (AP) -- Marshall's presence in Wednesday's Motor City Bowl is more than just a reward for a season well done.
It is an affirmation for a program with high expectations, an ingredient in a mix kneaded by careful recruiting and game preparation, strong athleticism and a growing tradition of winning.
When Marshall (11-1) meets Louisville (7-4) at the Pontiac Silverdome north of Detroit, another chapter will be written in the history of a Herd program nearly destroyed by a 1971 plane crash that killed 45 players and coaches.
As the teams arrives Sunday in Michigan, there will be no visible reminders of the Herd's two straight Mid-American Conference championships and six Division I-AA title game appearances in 12 years.
But it will always be in the minds of Marshall's coaches and players.
"When you step on the field for Marshall, they expect you to win," quarterback Chad Pennington said recently. "They don't expect you to come close. They don't expect you just to give them a good game. They expect you to win."
Marshall is the only Division I-A or I-AA program with 100 victories this decade. That has been aided by a 69-4 mark at home since 1991, the year its 30,000-seat stadium opened.
Before switching to Division I-A in 1997, Marshall won the I-AA crown at home in 1992 and 1996.
The ritual didn't change when coach Bob Pruett, a West Virginia native who played at Marshall in the early 1960s, arrived two years ago from Florida to take over for Jim Donnan.
Pruett's first head-coaching job has resulted in a 36-4 record, a Division I-AA title, two MAC titles and two appearances in the Motor City Bowl.
"The kids know how to rally and play and they know what kind of effort it takes to play for championships because we've been there so many times," Pruett said.
"We start talking about playing for championships when we recruit them. And that's an expectation. Hopefully that's ingrained in them and that's what they expect."
There were players like wide receiver Randy Moss, who rewrote Division I-A record books in just two seasons; quarterback Tony Petersen, now the team's offensive coordinator who still holds six school single-season records for 1987; Mike Barber, holder of five school receiving records; and Michael Payton, the Division I-AA player of the year in 1992.
And carrying the torch is Petersen's pupil, Pennington, who threw for 3,480 yards and a Division I-A-best 39 touchdowns a year ago and followed that up with 3,419 yards and 24 touchdowns this season.
"The expectations are so high when you come to a program like Marshall, once you step foot on the field, you automatically have to raise your level of play," Pennington said. "That's very exciting for an athlete."
Many of Marshall's players knew about the school's winning tradition long before they donned the green-and-white jersey.
"I'd been wanting to be a part of it," said wide receiver Nate Poole. "Everybody wants to win. The Lord has let us be successful. It's been a fun thing to be around."
Marshall's worst season in the past decade was a 6-5 mark in 1990. The last time the Herd had a losing record was 4-7 in 1983.
"I think it's because of the way we do things around here," said running back Doug Chapman. "Nothing really changes. We go out there and practice hard, coaches coach hard. They emphasize meetings. They emphasize everyone knowing their assignments.
"What it is if you have good athletes, and they know what they're doing, they're going to make big plays. They recruit well here. They're ready to show players how to make big plays. The coaching staff's just does a good job here of getting people prepared."
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