Marshall football: Herd renews rivalry with Miami
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. -- Derrick Thomas sat down in class Monday morning and a classmate noticed he was wearing Marshall football gear. She asked him if he was on the team and the redshirt senior corner said, 'yes.'
With that acknowledgement, Thomas' classmate had one request: If there was a game the Thundering Herd loses this year, she begged him for it not to be Miami (Ohio).
"I was like, I didn't know it was that big of a rivalry," he said.
He's learning, as is the rest of the Thundering Herd.
While Marshall and Miami haven't played since 2004, the rivalry between the Herd and RedHawks stretches back to 1905. That could give the teams' season opener at 7 p.m. Saturday at Joan C. Edwards Stadium (CBS Sports Network) even more energy than what normally comes with season debuts.
The Herd and RedHawks have a long history. The 41 games they've played against each other make Miami one of Marshall's most familiar opponents. Among the events that have sparked this rivalry:
Among the wildest was in 2002. Normal starting quarterback Byron Leftwich was injured, so Stan Hill stepped in and his leaping 1-yard touchdown run with 5 seconds left gave the Herd a 36-34 win.
In the post-game chaos, then-Miami defensive coordinator Jon Wauford was arrested on misdemeanor battery charges for allegedly striking a Marshall fan. The charges were dropped, but Wauford and linebackers coach Taver Johnson were suspended. Johnson admitted to damaging a coaches' box at Joan C. Edwards Stadium.
Some of that history was news to Thomas on Monday, but it made a grin grow wider across his face.
"That makes it all that much more exciting for me," Thomas said. "If the fans are going to be getting crazy, that's what'll have me pumped up. If the fans are into it and the crowd's getting loud and it's third down and you can't even hear yourself make the calls, that's the things I love."
Marshall Coach Doc Holliday figures the team doesn't need the Herd's history with the RedHawks to get hyped for the game. The current Miami roster should be enough. This is a team, he said, that last season upset Ohio University, which was ranked 24th in the country at the time.
"The bottom line, if you have a problem with your kids (getting prepared) in the first game, you probably don't have much of a football team," Holliday said. "We've got great respect for (Miami) and the kids understand they better be prepared on Saturday night or we've got no chance."
While the players have the 2013 edition of the RedHawks to focus on, they know that the fans in the Edwards Stadium seats will have that history on their minds. And those fans will be stirred up to restart that rivalry, which should lead to a charged-up atmosphere come kickoff.
"It's going to be great," Jasperse said. "It'll be our first time coming out of the tunnel and the fans are going to be so pumped up because of who we're playing. It's going to be a great feeling. I just can't wait to get out there."
Contact sportswriter Derek Redd at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-1712. His blog is at blogs.dailymail.com/marshall. Follow him on Twitter @derekredd.