It’s an in-state rivalry that’s ... not
Marshall remains winless against WVU in shortened game
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – It’s often been said that for two teams to have a rivalry, each has to win at least one game in the series.
We arrived in Morgantown on Sunday for Marshall-West Virginia under the impression that this was one of the more underrated rivalries in college football. Some of the national media even recognized it as so in columns this week.
There’s only one issue with this so-called rivalry. Marshall’s never won.
That trend continued as West Virginia improved to 11-0 against the Thundering Herd. This time in the strangest of fashions.
Two weather delays, thanks to a titanic line of thunderstorms – which included a fan being struck by lightning in the upper deck – caused the game to be called with 14:36 remaining in the fourth quarter with the Mountaineers holding a 34-13 lead.
After kicking off at 3:37 p.m. ET in one of the muggiest atmospheres one could imagine, the game was finally called 6 hours, 47 minutes later, which gave Dana Holgorsen his first win as head coach of WVU.
“We didn’t have a lot of options,” Marshall athletic director Mike Hamrick said. “Our medical staff at both universities indicated it wasn’t safe. The weather still is an issue with the next two, three hours of thunderstorms and lightning. Both schools talked with our conference offices and everyone got together. It’s in the best interest of the student athlete and the fans – that we just call the game. These players haven’t eaten since 11:30 a.m.”
But even before the long day at the stadium, these fans agreed on the status of their in-state series. It’s not a rivalry. Is there some Little Brother Syndrome in the fans from Huntington? Sure. Just ask some current Marshall students.
“We have to win one first, sure; they are more a nemesis than a rival,” Evan Hazele said. “They are cocky. They are too cocky. But it’s still not a rivalry.”
“I hate WVU,” Keltus Emmerth screamed. “We’re the little brother that never goes away. We always give them [trouble].”
Unlike other in-state rivalries, these guys tend to co-exist. For the most part they are friends. There is so much pride being from the state of West Virginia that it allows them to be.
There are plenty of split households. Many current Marshall students grew up as Mountaineers fans, and will root for them every other week of the year – except this one. That’s not the case with Auburn-Alabama, Oklahoma-Texas or Florida-Florida State, some of the top rivalries in the game.
Tommy Napier and Tiffany Lockhart are longtime friends. Napier was wearing a Mountaineers shirt, Lockhart a Thundering Herd shirt. Lockhart attended both schools.
“I wouldn’t say it’s fierce,” Napier said. “I have fun in both places. Having grown up in Huntington and gone to school here in Morgantown, I think it’s more fun than it is fierce.”
“I decided to represent my hometown [Sunday] by wearing a Marshall shirt,” Lockhart said. “But either way, WVU or Marshall – I’ll root for both.”
West Virginia fans joke that they want better opponents in Morgantown. “Bring on LSU” was a popular rallying cry – three weeks before the Tigers pay them a visit. That Marshall head coach Doc Holliday – a former WVU player and coach – would maybe bring a better team? That thought crossed some of their minds.
“They think it’s a rivalry,” West Virginia fan Taylor Richmond said. “To us it’s a practice round. We’d like to get a little tougher competition, so maybe Doc Holliday will be able to bring that.”
Those feelings were held by a few more Mountaineers fans we ran into, including Steve Grogg, one of the WVU tailgate kings in the Brown Lot.
“There is no rivalry,” Grogg said matter-of-factly. “In order for this to be a rivalry, Marshall has to win a game first and they are [0-11]. So there is no rivalry. This game needs to go away; we need to get some competition in here.”
How quickly some West Virginia fans forget what happened in 2010 when these two teams met on the gridiron. The Mountaineers got one heck of a scare Huntington, pulling out a 24-21 overtime win in what has become known as the Coal Bowl.
That’s the closest outcome of the 11-game series history since the first game in 1911, a 17-15 win in Morgantown for West Virginia. The Mountaineers outscored Marshall 193-6 in the 1914, 1915 and 1923 meetings. The teams didn’t meet again until 1997.
Marshall may only have one more chance to get a victory against their only FBS counterpart in the state. The current contract between the two schools ends in 2012, with some debate as to how the series should continue in the future.
That battle is much like what the fans between the two deal with. Marshall wants the Mountaineers to come to Huntington every other year. West Virginia wants the Thundering Herd to come to Morgantown twice as many times as WVU heads south.
For the chance at another college football rivalry, every fan should hope these two continue to play. History tells us one thing: Marshall will make this a rivalry one day.