HUNTINGTON, W.Va — The Marshall football team’s 10 wins last season marked the first time the Thundering Herd reached that plateau since 2002. Byron Leftwich was the quarterback of that team, which went 11-2, won the Mid-American Conference and the GMAC Bowl. He led Marshall twice to double-digit winning seasons.
Chad Pennington, who coached last Saturday’s Green-White spring game against Leftwich, quarterbacked Marshall to four double-digit winning seasons, including a 13-0 finish, MAC title and Motor City Bowl win in 1999.
As the Herd prepares for the summer workout phase of its year, the team will work toward maintaining the success it’s reached, as former teams did before it. Leftwich said it’s up to the players for that to happen.
“It’s out of the coaches’ hands,” he said. “It’s up to those guys in those jerseys to do what they need to do to make sure they can have the most successful season they can have, hopefully the most successful season in Marshall history.”
Pennington — Marshall’s career leader in passing completions, attempts, yards and touchdowns — echoed the words of his former coach with the New York Jets, Herm Edwards, told the team earlier last week. Edwards talked about “symptoms of success.” To Pennington, that meant the ability to survive success and the first step in doing that is for players to set their own standards.
“You don’t focus on anybody else’s expectations but yours,” Pennington said. “And you come to practice every day, and you come to the building every day ready to get better. You don’t worry about the opponent, you worry about yourself and take care of yourself. As long as you do that, then you control what you can control.”
Marshall coach Doc Holliday agrees with that advice, and wants his team to maintain that focus through the offseason. The Herd’s first three seasons under Holliday were up and down. After opening his tenure with a 5-7 record in 2010, Marshall climbed to a 7-6 finish and Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Bowl win over Florida International in 2011. Then it slipped back to a 5-7 record in 2012 before last season’s breakthrough.
With many key players returning, Holliday would like the Herd to take the next step, but said that won’t come with players resting on their laurels.
“There’s no question that complacency is our enemy,” Holliday said. “That’s what it is. We have an opportunity to have a good football team, but it’s up to us.”
Former receiver Troy Brown said continued success also hinges upon what players do away from football. Brown — a member of Marshall’s 1991 Division I-AA national runner-up team, its 1992 I-AA national championship team and a member of the New England Patriots Hall of Fame — said making the right decisions in everyday life won’t just help win games, but also helps in the eyes of NFL scouts.
“What they look for in the NFL is, yeah, a lot of guys can play the game, but how are you going to conduct yourselves off the field?” Brown said. “You try to get these kids to understand social media, and the impact it can have on you and your reputation. You can say something on there that may not be who you are ... and they can think that of you.”
Marshall’s former star players all said they’re happy to see the team return to a level they enjoyed when they wore a Herd uniform. Now they’d like to see that continue, and are prepared to assist however they can.
“We’re going to try to help them in that process,” Leftwich said. “We’re here for them. Whatever help they need, whatever we can provide, whatever little tidbits that can help anybody, that’s what we’re here for.”
Contact sportswriter Derek Redd at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-1712. His blog is at blogs.charlestondailymail.com/marshall. Follow him on Twitter @derekredd.