Dec. 16, 2013
By JACK BOGACZYK
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. -- It’s been 16 years since Marshall football had an opportunity like the one it faces next week in the Military Bowl.
Yes, the first and last time the Thundering Herd had the chance to play a power-conference team in a bowl was in Marshall’s return to major college football after big success in the Division I-AA ranks … until now.
That was in 1997, when Chad Pennington and the Herd lost to Ole Miss, 34-31, in the Motor City Bowl at the Pontiac Silverdome.
Marshall has won seven of its eight bowls since then, but those have come against FBS programs from the Mountain West, Sun Belt and Mid-American conferences, and Conference USA.
Military intelligence tells me this Dec. 27 bowl for the 2013 Herd has the potential to be a great game, as coach Doc Holliday’s 9-4 club goes against Maryland (7-5), which – when it plays its next game after the bowl -- will be in the really, really Big Ten.
The Terrapins have played in 24 bowls (11-11-2). They’ve played in the Orange three times, Sugar and Cotton, four Gators, two Suns and two Peaches. They’ve won five of their last six bowl appearances. No postseason slouches, to be sure.
Marshall … Maryland … the M&M Bowl … how sweet!!
Herd fans constantly clamor for the chance to see power-conference teams. Well, the Military Bowl offers an ACC challenge, and in the picturesque setting of Annapolis, Md., at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium.
It’s an intimate place – 34,000 seats – that will make for a great atmosphere on the banks of the Severn River and Chesapeake Bay. And there’s plenty to do.
Besides a game-day parade that includes the Marshall band, cheerleaders and Budweiser Clydesdales, it’s well worth taking a tour of the historic U.S. Naval Academy grounds and buildings. You can visit the crypt of John Paul Jones in the imposing Naval Academy Chapel, a beautiful National Historic Landmark.
I know. I’ve been there. It’s impressive, as is Annapolis, the capital of Maryland. The Capitol building is an interesting tour. Downtown Annapolis is very walkable, with plenty of little shops, restaurants and pubs to pique your interest.
There’s another thing about this Military Bowl that Herd fans should consider besides the Herd going for its second win in history over an ACC team (a 13-10 win at Clemson in 1999 was the first).
It’s the last year in the current contract rotation for bowls. So, what does that mean?
I don’t know if many noticed, but in the next round of bowl deals (2014-19 seasons), Conference USA is destined for locations that are warm and wonderful … but none is an easy motor trip for Herd fans.
Boca Raton, Miami, Hawaii, the Bahamas, Dallas, Albuquerque, New Orleans, St. Petersburg, Shreveport (or at they like to call it down there, the ArkLaTex).
Annapolis is about a 6½-hour drive from Huntington. It’s the first bowl played at Navy’s stadium. The Military Bowl has a compelling matchup. Besides, do Herd fans want the neighboring Terp supporters to dominate the setting? A Turtle Wax job, so to speak?
Herd fans can book a room at the Marshall team hotel in Washington (the Herd will encamp there Dec. 23 until the morning of game day). Special rate rooms at the Renaissance Washington Downtown, a Marriott property at 999 Ninth St. NW, go for $112 a night.
Fans wishing to book a room in the Herd hotel, log on to: https://aws.passkey.com/g/20294184.
It’s best to purchase game tickets through the Herd ticket office, since the Marshall athletic program retains the first $100,000 in sales (and 50 percent of anything above that figure), according to C-USA agreements. Those lower-deck chairback tickets are $77. Once the lower level allotment has been exhausted, Marshall will offer upper-level $50 bench seats.
Marshall students may purchase tickets through the Cam Henderson Center ticket office for $40.
Fans who want to purchase Military bowl tickets are have questions on bowl ticketing can reach the Henderson Center box office via HerdTickets@marshall.edu (email); HerdZone.com (web) or 1-800-THE-HERD (phone).
It’s a Friday afternoon kickoff, which gives fans the chance to travel home from the bowl on a weekend before returning to work the following week.
By the way, Doc and his team are motoring to the game.
What about you?
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Marshall and Maryland never have met in football, but the two programs share a distinction from their pasts.
The Herd and the Terrapins are the last two teams in Southern Conference history to finish with perfect records.
No Southern club has finished with a zero in the loss column since Coach Bob Pruett’s 1996 Herd that went 15-0 and won the NCAA Division I-AA national title. Prior to that, no team had finished perfect since the 1951 Maryland team of Coach “Big Jim” Tatum.
VMI was an unbeaten Southern Conference champ in 1957, but had a blemish, going 9-0-1 with a 21-21 tie at Holy Cross. Future Terps (and Georgia Tech and Detroit Lions) coach Bobby Ross played on that Keydet team.
That ’51 Terrapins team is an interesting one. The SC didn’t allow schools to play in the postseason. Earlier that year, the conference joined with the Big Seven Conference in banning members from participating in post-season bowl games as part of an on-going movement by a number of NCAA institutions wishing to de-emphasize college football.
Tatum’s team, ranked No. 3 nationally, decided to tell the SC to pound salt, and headed to the Sugar Bowl to play top-ranked Tennessee – and won 28-13. Clemson did the same, as Coach Frank Howard took the Tigers to the Gator Bowl, where they fell to Miami.
The Terps and Clemson were placed a on a year's probation by the Southern Conference, and it was ruled neither school could play an SC team in the 1952 regular season.
Where did all of this go?
Well, Maryland and Clemson got together with South Carolina, NC State, North Carolina, Duke and Wake Forest and they withdrew from the Southern Conference … and formed the ACC in the summer of 1953.
Now you know the rest of the story.
# # #
The 2013 Military Bowl will be the first postseason game to be played at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium, but it will not be the first bowl played in Maryland.
On Dec. 9, 1950, Texas A&M downed Georgia, 40-20, in the first and only Presidential Cup Bowl. It was played at Byrd Stadium on the Maryland campus in College Park, before a “crowd” of 12,245.
As for the Terrapins and Navy’s stadium, Maryland hasn’t made the short drive to play in Annapolis since 1965, when the Middies won, 19-7, in what is known as the Crab Bowl series. The previous year, a Terrapin player twice made an obscene gesture in the game, and Navy canceled the series.
The ’65 game in Annapolis was played to finish a contract, and the teams didn’t meet again until 2005 and then again in 2010 – both at M&T Bank Stadium, home of the NFL Baltimore Ravens, and both won by Maryland.
# # #
OK, so Maryland and Marshall haven’t played in football. However, Holliday knows plenty about the Terps. In the Herd coach’s long career as an assistant, he coached against Maryland 25 times, going 12-13 – 11-9 at West Virginia and 1-4 at NC State, when the Terps were riding high in marquee bowl seasons for coach Ralph Friedgen.
Holliday was 1-1 against Maryland as a linebacker at WVU in the late ‘70s.
# # #
And speaking of John “Doc” Holliday, another “John Holliday” will have a prominent role at the military bowl.
Johnny Holliday has been the play-by-play voice of the Terrapins since 1979. Back in 1965, he was voted the nation’s No. 1 disc jockey while at KYA Radio in San Francisco. The next year, he was the host of the last U.S. concert by … the Beatles, at Candlestick Park.
And now you know the rest of that story.