Nov. 16, 2013
By JACK BOGACZYK
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. – Every Nov. 14 in the last four years, there is one Marshall football player who has had a dilemma of emotions.
Nov. 14 is the most treasured and most remembered day in the history of Marshall University. On that date in 1970, the Thundering Herd football team plane crashed en route home from a loss at East Carolina, taking 75 lives.
And on Nov. 14 in 1991, Marshall starting left tackle Garrett Scott was born.
For the first time in his Herd career on Thursday night at Tulsa’s Chapman Stadium, Scott played on the anniversary of that fateful Marshall day and his birthday.
There were many reasons for the 6-foot-5, 294-pound senior from Douglas, Ga., to celebrate.
Wearing special helmets with a “75” decal in memory of the crash victims, the Herd got a crucial 45-34 comeback victory over the Golden Hurricane. The 67 travel team members respectfully and with unity watched a webcast of the Memorial Fountain ceremony back on the MU campus in their hotel 7 1/2 hours before kickoff.
It was the first time since the crash that Marshall played a road game on Nov. 14 (the Herd is 2-2 in home games on that date since the tragedy).
And, it was Scott’s 22nd birthday, a big guy wearing his No. 76 and Thundering Herd Nation’s No. 75 – which coach Doc Holliday’s team will now wear on the helmets for the remainder of the 2013 season.
“Every year for me, this day is just overwhelming,” Scott said in a stadium room adjacent to the Herd’s dressing quarters after Marshall (7-3, 5-1) bounced back to win despite five turnovers. “It’s overwhelming because every year we have ceremonies to remember those who lost their lives in the crash.
“And everywhere it’s just like so many emotions going on -- not just because of my birthday -- but because what happened is so big, so meaningful at Marshall.”
Scott said he will have other birthdays, but this was his last Nov. 14 in a Herd uniform, and he and the other seniors want to go out with a Conference USA championship and bowl victory.
Perhaps it’s another reason this Nov. 14 was special?
“I put myself aside, especially for this day,” said Scott, who smiled broadly when asked about Nov. 14 being his birth date. “This is all about the team, and the school, and accomplishing our goals, and those 75 people upstairs watching.
“We were wearing those helmets, and we were very proud to do that. So, I just put myself aside for now. But there’s a little glimmer. I’m not going to lie about it.”
Scott, a two-time game captain this season, made his 31st career start for Marshall in the win at Tulsa. He was in Holliday’s first recruiting class, a fourth-year class that also included tight end Gator Hoskins, kicker Justin Haig, defensive linemen Brandon Sparrow and Ra’Shawde Myers, and invited walk-on center Chris Jasperse.
“We know what kind of team we have, what kind of leadership we have and need,” Scott said. “A lot of us have led this year and that’s made us more together. This game, it was just another challenge.
“But when we fumbled, it wasn’t time to give up. I asked the guys, ‘how are you going to respond?’ When I got over on the sideline, I said Tally (Essray Taliaferro), (Kevin) Grooms, Stew (Butler) let’s just get back out there and score, make a play.
“I know how this team feels because that’s how I feel. You get past that (bad) play to go make another one.”
With the Herd down 34-31 at the Tulsa 39 after a short punt and 10-yard Deandre Reaves return with 4:51 left, Scott said there was still time for him to have a happy birthday.
“I really felt like there was a lot of time,” the three-year Herd starter said. “I usually don’t look at the scoreboard or the clock, don’t like to. But I did, and there was a lot of time, especially for us, with (Rakeem) Cato running the offense like he does.
“We’re a great team. Even though we turned it over a bunch of times, we can go out and make plays, we’ve shown that. And sure enough, guys stepped up and made the plays we needed.”
On a breezy night that was no breeze for the Herd, Scott said how things eventually played out may have been the most appropriate way for this “75” memorial game to end.
“That game described Marshall in the fullest,” he said. “The struggle, the determination at the end. We had to fight back.
“We shouldn’t have made it as close as we did, the way we came out (a 21-0 lead after less than 10 minutes), with all of the emotion of the day. But we battled.
“It was like the school after the plane crash. It wasn’t going to just give up and we weren’t going to give up.”
And Scott said it was a birthday he’ll never forget.
“It wasn’t about me,” he said. “It was about us. It was about all of us from Marshall, then and now.”