The TU Golden Hurricane erased an early 21-0 deficit in the 4th quarter of their game against the Marshall University Thundering Herd on Thursday night, but Marshall scored two late touchdown to push them to a 45-34 win.
The victory for Marshall came on an emotional night for the Herd, as it was the 43rd anniversary of the horrific plane crash on November 14, 1970 that claimed the lives of all 75 souls, (37 Marshall players, 8 coaches, 25 supporters and all 5 crew members), aboard Southern Airways flight 932 after it crashed into a hillside short of the runway at the Tri-City Airport near Huntington, West Virginia.
Thursday’s game was the first time since that fateful night that the Thundering Herd had played a football game on the road on the anniversary of the plane crash. In tribute, the Marshall players wore the number “75” on their helmets and the Golden Hurricane fans paid their respects by observing a moment of silence before kickoff, which was slipped one minute to 6:36pm, (which is 7:36pm Huntington time), the exact moment of the crash.
The Herd came roaring out of the gate, scoring touchdowns on their first three possessions.
The Thundering Herd were threatening to score a fourth when TU linebacker Shawn Jackson picked off a tipped pass on his own 7 yard line. Dane Evans, a redshirt quarterback out of Sanger, Texas, marched the Golden Hurricane 93-yards down the field, capping the drive with a 1-yard touchdown handoff to Trey Watts.
Most of the Golden Hurricane’s point came from Marshall turnovers. Tulsa recorded five takeaways in the contest – an interception and four fumbles – and finished with a plus-three turnover ratio. TU scored another time and the Thundering Herd scored twice to give Marshall a 34-14 lead at the break. Tulsa scored on each of its first four second-half possessions, taking advantage of short field position. The TU defense forced three fumbles and a punt on Marshall’s first four second-half possessions. The Hurricane drove 15 and 54 yards for touchdowns, and 38 and 42 yards for a pair of field goals to move ahead 34-31.
The Thundering herd then scored on two drives in the fourth quarter, assuming control of the ball after a punt and on downs to move ahead of TU by what would be the game’s final score of 45-34. Senior Trey Watts rushed for a career-high 169 yards and scored two touchdowns for Tulsa. Redshirt freshman quarterback Dane Evans completed 13-of-39 passes for 161 yards and a touchdown. Jackson finished with 14 tackles, an interception and two fumble recoveries.
Marshall quarterback Rakeem Cato passed for 456 yards and five touchdowns on 33-of-58 completions. Tommy Shuler tallied 105 receiving yards and two touchdowns, and Devon Smith added 114 yards receiving with a touchdown.
Tulsa totaled 345 yards of offense, including 184 rushing yards. The Thundering Herd totaled 619 yards of offense on 103 plays – the most plays ever run against a Tulsa team. Marshall also gained 163 yards on the ground.
It was a tough loss but TU head coach Bill Blankenship was philosophical about it. “A lot of people don’t understand, there’s not a lot of difference in winning and losing. And mistakes that you make generally accentuate one or the other. Made some great plays, had some opportunities that we didn’t make them. “
“There was a point there we thought we were sure we had it. “ Coach Blankenship continued, “I felt like once the second quarter hit and we got a couple of scores, especially just one, it just seemed like the one that kind of broke the ice, then the look was different. We talked at halftime. You choose every play. And I thought our guys chose to fight.
The Golden Hurricane fall to 2-8 overall, 1-4 in Conference USA. They travel to Rustan, Louisiana to take on Louisiana Tech next Saturday. TU will close out the 2013 football season on November 30th against North Texas in Chapman Stadium.
Photos by Greg Duke for Tulsa Today.