Marshall cracks AP poll

Published 12:00 am Monday, September 20, 1999

The Associated Press

For the first time since The Associated Press college football poll began in 1936, Marshall is included.

Monday, September 20, 1999

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For the first time since The Associated Press college football poll began in 1936, Marshall is included. It enters this week at No. 21.

For a team that moved up to Division I-A football in 1997, the milestone is not lost on coach Bob Pruett.

”That’s something that three years ago people never would have dreamed would happen,” Pruett said Sunday. ”Hopefully we can continue to justify our ranking.”

It’s another first for a program that set an NCAA record Saturday for victories in a decade with 104, one more than the great Alabama teams of the 1970s and the Nebraska teams of the 1980s.

But enjoying the school’s new success is like an artist who stops to admire his work midway through the project.

”It doesn’t make any difference until you see how it ends,” Pruett said.

The Thundering Herd came close to entering the rankings in 1998 after starting the season 8-0, but it lost any poll hopes after getting whipped by Bowling Green 34-13.

This time, Marshall’s entrance was made possible by a similar score – Colorado State’s 34-13 loss to Brigham Young, along with losses by Alabama, Arizona State and Notre Dame.

And Marshall made the transition complete by getting its payback on Bowling Green with a 35-16 victory Saturday night.

The question now is whether Marshall can hold onto or improve on its status. The remaining schedule works against the school.

Marshall has no opponents currently in the Top 25. In fact, five of the eight teams are winless, a luxury for a two-time defending Mid-American Conference champion, but a possible turnoff for poll voters.

The biggest tests will be road games at Miami of Ohio – the only team on Marshall’s remaining schedule with a winning record – and Western Michigan.

”You only get one chance in the Top 25, so we have to make it stick,” quarterback Chad Pennington said. ”We’ve got to be more consistent as a team, especially on offense.”

Bowling Green was left a believer in Marshall’s poll prospects.

”They deserve it,” said Falcons quarterback Ricky Schneider. ”They’ve got so many weapons. They are very versatile. The defense doesn’t give up the big play.”

Defensive back Chad Long went a step further.

”Top 15, I’d say,” he said. ”They’ve got a really explosive team.”