It’s hard to get fans out to a Wednesday night football game. It’s even harder when the forecast calls for strong storms all game long. That was the case for my latest Road to CFB trek to Huntington, West Virginia, to catch a Marshall home football game day at Joan C. Edwards Stadium. The Thundering Herd were hosting a rebounding Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns on the first scheduled Wednesday night tilt of the season.
Putting the “Thunder” In Thundering Herd!
Marshall is probably most-well known nationally for a horrific tragedy. On November 14, 1970, a charter flight carrying the Thundering Herd football team and coaching staff crashed into a mountainside, killing 75. It remains one of the worst air tragedies in US history.
The aftermath and total rebuild of the Marshall football program was turned into a film starring Matthew McConaughey in 2006 and sprung the school’s battle cry, “We are Marshall.”
The school also dedicated a fountain in the center of campus in 1972 memorializing those lost.
But that’s not all Marshall football is known for; football excellence is a staple in Marshall’s storied past. Around the turn of the millennium, Marshall had won 10 or more games in five of six seasons under Bob Pruet. It was their second stint in the Mid-American Conference before they headed for Conference USA in 2005. And again from 2013-15, Marshall was a mainstay in the double-digit win group.
2022 marked the first for Marshall in the Sun Belt Conference.
If You Find Yourself In Huntington, West Virginia
Pregame on a Wednesday afternoon was a muted version of what Saturday usually looks like. Tailgating was there, but it was relegated to retirees and folks that took the day off work to be here; in other words, the true diehards.
The threat of rain all afternoon also discouraged many out-of-town travelers from making the drive to Huntington.
But if you arrive early enough, find a spot on the numerous side streets around the stadium for convenient– and free– parking. It’ll also put you right in the heart of the tailgating.
A few laundry list notes before you head to “The Joan.” If you use the Waze navigation app, visit the plane crash site to pay respects. It’s a rite of passage for those traveling to Marshall games and an integral part of game day. Coordinates to the marker are: 38° 22.386′ N, 82° 34.8′ W. Then head to campus and find the Memorial Fountain (pictured above) and the many buffalo statues around campus.
A local favorite for food and drink before the game is Fat Pattys, located just a stone’s throw away from The Joan. Their menu consists of a bunch of local favorites, but I opted for the Pretzel Patty: a simple cheeseburger with honey mustard on a pretzel roll. You won’t be a lone– and arrive early if you want to get a spot– because this place gets busy fast.
Louisiana 23, Marshall 13
Despite storms in the area and the Wednesday night kickoff, the stadium still filled about halfway, seating a little over 19,000 of its 38,000 capacity. The student section was full and loud.
However, the excitement in the air battled a sleepy first half which Marshall went into the break up 7-3. Halftime concluded, the teams ran back out, and then the game was delayed due to lightning.
Stadium staff not only removed fans from the seating area, but evacuated the entire stadium and sent folks completely outside into the parking lots.
After a 45-minute delay, the game started back up with about 1/4 the folks it started with. Those who left didn’t miss a whole lot, as Louisiana dominated the second half and closed out the game with a 23-13 victory.
Marshall Game Day Grades
Stadium: C. It’s a fairly standard stadium in terms of quality and layout for a football program this size. No bad seats, which is great, but the school opted to tarp off some seats to battle a thin crowd. Totally serviceable, nothing outstanding.
Tradition: B. It’s unfortunate that a major staple in Marshall’s history is a tragic incident, but it’s not all the school is. Chants of “We are! Marshall!” ring back and forth in the stadium. There’s a storied past of excellence and passion here.
Atmosphere: D. It’s not Marshall’s fault. It’s a tough game to schedule. Weather delays, an uncommon kick time, and poor play just sucked the energy right out of the place. Marshall is in a rebuilding year and has played the whole season without their star RB, so cheers were spotty. When they did cheer, it was impressive for the crowd size.
Tailgating: B. Shoutout to those who still tailgated on a Wednesday through rain (catch a theme here?). There were the evident foundations of a strong tailgating scene come a sunny Saturday.
Fans: B+. There are a great deal of fans who you know have been going to Marshall football games for the past 30 years. They’re passionate, kind, and numerous. Nothing too over-the-top in terms of accommodation or really going the extra mile, but you won’t have an issue with any Marshall fans.