Marshall renews rivalry

Marshall University’s football team renews its rivalry Saturday with Ohio University, the 59th meeting between the two schools in a game now known as the “Battle for the Bell.”

This rivalry began in 1905; however, the trophy was not introduced until 1997.

The two campuses are located about 80 miles apart and share much in common, including a love for the color green.

The last 10 meetings of the universities have been in favor of the Thundering Herd, with Marshall taking seven victories. Last year was a game largely dominated by the Thundering Herd, which rolled to a 44-14 victory in Huntington.

Although recent history favors Marshall, the series was largely dominated by Ohio University in the early 1900s through the 70s. Ohio holds the lead on the all-time record with 32 wins to Marshall’s 20. The game has resulted in six ties.

Marshall comes into the meeting with a 1-0 record after beating the Purdue Boilermakers in a hard fought game that was not decided until the closing minutes of the fourth quarter. The game was sealed by the Thundering Herd defense generating two turnovers and allowing only three points on Purdue’s last three possessions of the game. Until that time, Purdue had leaned on its veteran offensive line, and quarterback, as they had effectively run the ball all game.

Marshall University Head football Coach “Doc” Holliday expressed the importance of looking forward to this week’s opponent, and putting the win against Purdue behind the team at his press conference on Tuesday afternoon. He pointed out that Michael Birdsong was a young quarterback making his first start at Marshall in the Purdue game, and he expressed concern about team turnovers.

However, there was much to praise from Sunday’s game. All Marshall kickoffs in the Purdue game were downed for touchbacks, and there were no special teams’ penalties that went against the Thundering Herd. The kickers and punters performed well, missing no field goals or extra points, and there were no shanked punts and no long punt returns by the Boilermakers.

Against Ohio Saturday night, Holliday said he anticipates playing a well-prepared, veteran team, which will be well rested to face Marshall. The necessity for preparation throughout the week, as the coach often mentions, is the key in winning on the weekend. He also said that he believes that players improve the most between week 1 and week 2.

Holliday praised Herd fans for the atmosphere and the exposure that the Sunday game gave the university. He revealed he had received text message from San Diego Chargers Quarterback Philip Rivers, whom he coached at North Carolina State University. Furthermore, he elaborated that fans had expressed that the game had the atmosphere of a South Eastern Conference, and lamented that that is the way it should be; Marshall is putting a championship quality football team on the field, as Coach Holliday continued, and deserves a championship quality atmosphere granted from the fan base, as the one the fans delivered in the stadium on Sunday.

Ohio University has had a different experience this season, as they opened up the year in Moscow, Idaho playing the University of Idaho Vandals in the Kibbie Dome. The game was played Thursday night, kicking off at 9pm Eastern, 7pm local in Idaho. While Ohio has the advantage of having a longer break between games, as Marshall played on Sunday having six days between games, Marshall did not travel across the country to play their first opponent.

Although a moderately respectable score line from the game from both perspectives, Ohio University controlled the game going up 21 to 3 in the first quarter. The Bobcats would go on to cruise to a victory, as the score after that never got closer than a 10 margin. It is difficult to ascertain what will happen considering there is only one game to judge each team, and that Ohio was relatively untested to the pressure, but Marshall has the slight odds to win.

Joseph Ashley can be contacted at [email protected].