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December 26, 2012

Marshall Athletics Year in Review: 2012

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Marshall athletics gave us plenty of highs and lows this year. Lots of ups and downs, too. So, as the year comes to an end, here is a closer look at a few of the ones we would love to never forget as well as a couple of ones that we have no choice but to remember.

January 14 - Marshall beats Central Florida to move to 4-0 in conference play

The 65-64 win over archrival UCF feels like an eternity ago (mostly because it was) but the atmosphere inside the Henderson Center that night was unforgettable. At the time, a serious run at an NCAA at-large bid seemed liked a forgone conclusion. Never in a million years did Marshall fans think their beloved Herd would drop six of its next seven games.

February 1 - A.J. Leggett signs his LOI

Yes, Leggett had qualification issues, and, yes, he would have likely signed with Miami if he would have passed admissions, but, make no mistake about it, getting a Rivals250 recruit with offers from just about every major program in the country to sign on the bottom line was huge. Not only did Leggett arrive at Marshall fully qualified, but he flashed enough potential early in camp before getting injured to lead Thundering Herd fans to believe he just might live up to his hype.

February 3 - Geep Wade hired

Wade's hire flew under the radar, but he has proven to be a wise hire by head coach Doc Holliday. In just a few short months, Wade helped solidify the interior of Marshall's offensive line and landed the Herd highly sought-after targets Stefan Houston and Michael Selby. He is also the lead recruiter for high-profile target Elijah Daniels.

March 6-8 - Conference USA Tournament run

The win over SMU was nice, but the triple overtime defeat of Tulsa followed by a semifinal win over a 25-win Southern Mississippi squad was the stuff of which legends are made. Nothing about the way Marshall finished the regular season suggested such a run was a possibility. In fact, most Herd fans were expecting a first-round meltdown against SMU. The blowout loss to Memphis in the final and subsequent snub by the NIT (Marshall deserved a home game) killed some of the euphoria surrounding the basketball program, but the excitement of those three wins in Memphis won't fade for quite some time.

May 19 - Baseball steals one against Tulane

2012 wasn't a good year for Marshall baseball: 17-37 was simply unacceptable for such a talented group led by an even more talented coach like Jeff Waggoner. Still, that 17th win on the season's final day, a 10-0 victory versus heated rival Tulane, had to feel good.

June 20 - Vinny Curry drafted
Few players in the history of Thundering Herd athletics have been adored by the Marshall faithful like Curry. So, when the 2011 C-USA Defensive Player of the Year was selected by the Philadelphia Eagles in the second round, Thundering Herd fans around the country united in applause and cheers. The 59th overall selection represented the highest Marshall player selected in the NFL Draft since Chris Crocker went to the Bengals in the third round of the 20303 draft.

July 3 - Dennis Tinnon gets another year

Past rulings (and, as it runs out, future ones) with the NCAA never seemed to work out for Herd fans so it seemed reasonable to expect the worst with Dennis Tinnon's appeal. But, after a lengthy appeal process that seemed to drag on for months, the NCAA surprised everyone, including Tinnon himself, by granting the versatile forward from Wisconsin another year of eligibility.

October 20 - The Herd pounds Southern Miss

Oh, what a night -- 630 yards of offense, including two 55-yard-plus touchdown runs; three sacks; and three forced turnovers, all of which led to a 35-point drubbing of USM at The Rock. Sure, the Eagles came into the game winless at 0-6. It didn't matter; they were the best 0-6 team in the history of college football. Unfortunately for Herd fans, it turned out USM simply just stunk and the rest of the season would be a bumpy ride.

November 15 - Kareem Canty ruled ineligible

Things seemed almost too good to be true. Back were leading scorers Dre Kane and Tinnon. Arriving on campus were JUCO studs D.D. Scarver and Elijah Pittman. Tying them all together was do-it-all point guard Kareem Canty, the heir apparent to Damier Pitts. The "experts" touted Marshall as a possible Bracket Buster. All of the pieces were in place, they said. Until they weren't. Unfortunately for Canty and Herd fans, the NCAA ruled Canty ineligible because of issues with his high school transcripts. Fast forward six weeks, and the Herd's season seems on the verge of imploding. Some Herd fans, including this one, point to what happened on the aforementioned date as a main reason why.

November 24 - Chris Rippon resigns

Despite what the ugly numbers might say (119th in the country in scoring defense among the worst of them), Chris Rippon is a good football coach. He just wasn't a good football coach in 2012. Marshall started off the season getting bulldozed by WVU and never really recovered, surrendering at least 40 points a staggering seven times. Perhaps more importantly, Rippon's unit failed to consistently pressure the opposing team's quarterbacks, which in turn failed to produce turnovers. Rippon's yet-to-be named successor (crossing my fingers for Chuck Heater) must turn up the heat and give Rakeem Cato and the dynamic Herd offense short fields to work with much more often than they did in 2012.

Chris McLaughlin is an analyst with Herd Nation. Comments and questions are welcomed and encouraged on the Old Fairfield forum.







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