The Infamous and Bitter History Between Marshall and Miami (OH)

In just 20 days, the Marshall Thundering Herd will renew an old rivalry with years of history when the Miami (OH) RedHawks come to town for both teams’ season opener. This will be the first meeting between these teams since 2014 and this year’s game should have a much different feel than recent memory.

Many might not realize the history these teams have together and how many significant moments Marshall vs. Miami has produced over time. While the rivalry has diminished in recent years between these two former MAC foes, it was greatly more intense in the past with many famous, and infamous, moments that still resonate to this day.

Miami leads the all-time series 30-12-1 with 28 of those wins between 1905 and 1980.  And one of those wins stand out over the rest and still leaves a sour taste in Marshall faithful’s mouths.

Following the tragic Marshall plane crash on November 14, 1970 that took the lives of 75 players, coaches and fans, the Herd began to rebuild during the 1971 season with a new football team that featured a very limited number of returning players.

Following a miraculous win over Xavier in Week 2 of the 1971 season, Marshall went on the road at Miami in Week 3 and the then Miami Redskins got a blowout 66-6 win in a game where Marshall faithful felt they purposely ran up the score on the undermanned Herd.

The Miami team managers even began removing the padding from the goal post that Marshall was heading towards in the fourth quarter of that game still with about three minutes remaining, adding to the disrespect Marshall felt in this contest. Marshall got a measure of revenge, however, with a 21-16 win over then 20th-ranked Miami in 1976.

Miami then followed with a five-game winning streak over the Herd until 1998 when things started to change.  Since 1998, Marshall is 8-1 against the RedHawks with an average margin of victory of over 15 points-per-game. But just when one thought this rivalry couldn’t get any more controversial than that 1971 game, an infamous Tuesday night in 2002 changed all of that.

In a game with major MAC East Division implications, Marshall was playing without the services of starting quarterback Byron Leftwich who suffered a leg injury the previous game at Akron. The winner of this game between the Herd and Miami would control its own destiny in the MAC East and the loser would essentially be eliminated from the equation.

The game itself was an instant classic and Marshall won on a last-second touchdown run from backup quarterback Stan Hill following two arguable pass interference calls against Miami that lifted the Herd to a thrilling 36-34 victory over the RedHawks. But the fireworks weren’t done by a long shot.

Following the game when some Herd fans rushed the field, Miami defensive coordinator Jon Wauford was arrested for assaulting a Marshall fan and was led out in handcuffs. The fan was taken to a local hospital with a concussion and Wauford was released on $5,000 bond early the next morning.

There were also reports that fellow Miami assistant coach Taver Johnson damaged Marshall’s visiting coaches’ box with damage to a shelf and chairs along with holes being knocked in the wall. Both Johnson and Wauford were suspended from the team following the incidents.

The RedHawks and superstar quarterback Ben Roethlisberger responded during the 2003 season with a 45-6 shellacking of the Herd to break Marshall’s then five-game winning streak over Miami. The RedHawks finished the 2003 season at 13-1 overall with a MAC Championship, GMAC Bowl victory and a final national ranking of 10th in the AP Poll.

Marshall got the upper hand back during the 2004 season with a 33-25 victory over Miami in what would be the last meeting between these teams in nine years with the Herd’s move to C-USA the following season.  The 2013 season opener for both teams saw a rekindled rivalry despite the rivalry feel being drastically diminished since its heyday.

Marshall romped Miami 52-14 in that 2013 contest and followed it up with a 42-27 victory in the next season’s opening game. And in less than three weeks, these two historical rivals meet up once again in a game with much at stake. Following a disappointing 3-9 season in 2016, Marshall will be looking to get the 2017 season started on a positive note.

But the Herd will have a challenging game against a resurgent Miami squad that finished the 2016 season by winning six of its last seven games and is expected to be a contender in the MAC East Division this season.

While we probably won’t see the type of fireworks and infamy this game has produced in the past, this season’s meeting should feel like the rivalry used to feel like.  The RedHawks won just two games total during the most recent two-year period they played the Herd from 2013-2014 and should present a far better challenge this time around.

Marshall and Miami have had many important and historic battles in the past and in the ever-changing landscape of modern day college football, holding on to historical rivalry games is harder than ever. And these two universities have that opportunity in the present time and will be looking to write another chapter in an under-the-radar rivalry.

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