2002 Football Season Ready To Kickoff
Senior quarterback Byron Leftwich will lead the Herd into the 2002 season.
It has been as much anticipated as any season in the history of Marshall football. Today, the kickoff of the 2002 Thundering Herd season finally is upon us and the wait is over.
The preseason publicity, the talk, the rankings and the award nominations -- none of it matters starting at 7:06 p.m. when the first football of the season flies off the tee at Marshall Stadium. At that moment the march toward regaining the Mid-American Conference title, toward a sixth consecutive bowl game and, hopefully, up the national standings, will begin for real.
Marshall enters the season ranked in the preseason polls for the first time in school history. The Herd opens season against the second ranked Appalachian State Mountaineers out of the Southern Conference and Division I-AA. Many have said that Marshall could become tthe first team from a non-BCS league to crack into the very upper echelon of college football, but ASU has its eyes firmly on a national title, and a win at Marshall would be a huge first step.
History indicates the game will be a war. The two schools played each other for years when both were members of the Southern Conference. Appalachian State was the first team other than Marshall to post a victory at Marshall Stadium (37-34 in 1992) and is the only school to have won twice at Marshall Stadium (also 10-3 in 1995).
When Marshall first joined the Southern Conference, in 1977, it was the Mountaineers who welcomed the Herd to the league with a 28-20 ASU victory in Boone, NC. It was Marshallís fifth season in the Southern Conference before the Herd secured itís first league victory, a 17-10 victory over Appalachian State in Boone.
There is also strong history for Marshall against the Mountaineers in seasons that ended in the Division I-AA national title game. The Herd earned itís first trip to the title game in 1987 at the expense of ASU, 24-10 in Boone. During the 1996 run to the national title is was Appalachian State that gave the undefeated Herd itís closest challenge, a 24-10 Marshall victory.
This yearís season opener marks the first meeting for the two teams since that 1996 regular season game. Marshall enters the season ranked in both preseason national polls for the first time in school history. ASU enters the season ranked second in both major Division I-AA polls, behind only defending I-AA national champion Montana in both.
The Herd returns 10 offensive starters from last seasonís 11-2 GMAC Bowl championship squad. Marshall set a Mid-American Conference Record in 2001, averaging 505 yards of total offense per game. Defensively the Herd is rebuilding with youth after ranking near the bottom of the NCAA rankings in both rushing defense and total defense.
Appalachian State enters 2002 with eight starters back on offense and seven back on defense.