We Are Marshall

  • Directors: McG
  • Producers: McG, Basil Iwanyk
  • Writers: Story, Jamie Linden, Cory Helms, Screenplay, Jamie Linden
  • Genres: Drama, Sport
  • Actors: Matthew McConaughey, Matthew Fox, Anthony Mackie, Kate Mara, Ian McShane, David Strathairn, Kimberly Williams Paisley, Robert Patrick, Brian Geraghty, January Jones

On the evening of November 14, 1970, Southern Airways Flight 932, a McDonnell Douglas DC-9 which Huntington, West Virginia’s Marshall University chartered to transport the Thundering Herd football team to Greenville, North Carolina and back to Huntington, clipped trees on a ridge just one mile short of the runway at Tri-State Airport in Ceredo, West Virginia and crashed into a gully. The team was returning from their game against the East Carolina University Pirates — a 17–14 loss. There were no survivors. In all, seventy-five people lost their lives. The dead included the thirty-seven players, head coach Rick Tolley and five members of his coaching staff, Charles E. Kautz, Marshall’s athletics director, team trainer Jim Schroer and his assistant, Donald Tackett, twenty-two boosters, and five crew members.

In the wake of the tragedy, President Donald Dedmon leans towards indefinitely suspending the football program, but he is ultimately persuaded to reconsider by the pleas of the Marshall students and Huntington residents, and especially the few football players who didn’t make the flight. Dedmon hires a young new head coach Jack Lengyel, who, with the help of Red Dawson, manages to rebuild the team in a relatively short time. They are aided by the NCAA’s waiver of a rule prohibiting freshmen from playing varsity football (a rule which had been abolished in 1968 for all sports except for football and basketball, and would be permanently abolished for those sports in 1972). The new team is composed mostly of the eighteen returning players (three varsity, fifteen sophomores) and walk-on athletes from other Marshall sports programs. Due to their lack of experience, the “Young Thundering Herd” ends up losing their first game, 29-6 to the Morehead State Eagles. The Herd’s first post-crash victory is a heart-stopping 15–13 home win against Xavier University in the first home game of the season.

The following week, Marshall lost to the Miami Redskins 66 to 6. They would win only one more game in 1971. Jack Lengyel resigned as head coach in 1974 with a record of 9-33. He would later become athletic director at the Naval Academy. He’s now in the Hall of Fame. Donald Dedmond accepted the presidency at Radford University where he would remain until he retired in 1994. Gene Morehouse’s son Keith followed in his fathers footsteps and became a broadcaster for Marshall Football where he remains today. Reggie Oliver started every game for the Thundering Herd until he graduated. He later returned to Marshall as an assistant coach and now lives in Ohio. After graduation, Nate Ruffin moved away from Huntington, got married and started a family. In 2001, after an illness, Nate died at his home in Virginia. He would return to Hunington one last time for a reuninon with his old buddies

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