The single most impactful date in the history of Marshall Thundering Herd football is approaching its 48th anniversary and while the tragic day is nearly 50 years old, it still affects the makeup of not only the football program, but the university and community as well.
November 14, 1970 is the saddest day in Marshall football history when a plane carrying 75 souls crashed just before making it to the Huntington Tri-State Airpot coming home from a football game at East Carolina. The crash took the lives of all 75 people aboard and since then, Marshall has made sure the memory of those 75 lives is never forgotten.
Keeping their memory alive isn’t just reserved for the university, however, and the football program has taken a major focus on honoring the 75 each season. Marshall head coach Doc Holliday makes it a point that his players know the history of Marshall and what they’re playing for, but that gets magnified on the game closest to the plane crash date.
Since 2013, the Marshall football program has honored the victims of the plane crash by putting extra emphasis on the game closest to the actual date of the crash. While the Herd has played many games close to the plane crash date over the years, it has become an annual focus since 2013 to honor the 75 through the game being played closest to November 14.
It really started on November 14, 2013, when Marshall played on the road at Tulsa for a Thursday night game in which the 75 decal was debuted on every helmet worn by the players. Tulsa even decided to slightly push the kickoff back to the exact time that the Marshall plane crash occurred to help honor the occasion.
In a key game in the midst of the Herd’s push to become eventual C-USA East Division Champions in 2013, Marshall defeated Tulsa 45-34 to not only help its East Division status, but successfully honor the 75 in the process. The tradition would continue the following season in Huntington.
The 2014 season saw Marshall host defending C-USA Champion Rice on Nov. 15 in a game in which the 75 decal was used again to honor the plane crash victims. The Herd rolled past the Owls 41-14 to improve to 10-0 on the season before eventually finishing 13-1 with a C-USA Championship, Boca Raton Bowl victory, and final national ranking of No. 22 in the Coaches Poll and No. 23 in the AP Poll.
The following season saw a different uniform broken out for the occasion when the Herd wore black jerseys for the first time. The 75 decal shined brightly on the helmets at Joan C. Edwards Stadium and the FIU Panthers didn’t know what hit them on November 14, 2015, when Marshall got the shutout 52-0 win.
The black jerseys were used again the following season when Marshall hosted Middle Tennessee on November 12, 2016, but this time an alternate helmet decal was used to honor the 1971 Young Thundering Herd team along with keeping the 75 decal on the helmets. It served as added inspiration and Marshall routed the Blue Raiders 42-17.
The 2017 season saw Marshall once again change up its gameday uniforms when black jerseys and black pants were introduced as a combination for the first time. In addition to that, the 1971 logo was used again along with the 75 decal and the names of every person aboard the plane on the middle stripe. Individual decals representing each person on the crash were used as well.
The Herd didn’t allow the opportunity go to waste and for the first time in C-USA play, Marshall knocked off Western Kentucky by a final score of 30-23 at Edwards Stadium. It’s clear how important the game closest to the plane crash date means to Marshall, and that’s evident in the scores of said game over the past few seasons.
Since the tradition began in 2013, the Herd is 5-0 in games closest to the plane crash date and has won the games by a combined score of 210-88. This meaningful game returns on Saturday in Huntington when the Herd hosts the Charlotte 49ers. Marshall comes in reeling after a disappointing 26-24 loss at Southern Miss, but that won’t mean much when the Herd puts on those all-black uniforms.
This is the most meaningful game each season for Marshall and the emphasis put on this game makes it a must-win. But bigger than wins and losses is what the meaning of this game represents. Honoring the 75 is as important as it gets and no team in college football plays for more than when Marshall suits up for the plane crash anniversary game.
The Herd will look to keep its perfect 5-0 record in plane crash anniversary games alive Saturday for a 2:30 p.m. ET kickoff against Charlotte in Huntington.