Marshall win at Notre Dame brings back memories of Xavier football – The Cincinnati Enquirer

Bigger win in football? Notre Dame or … Xavier? Wait, Xavier had a football team? The Marshall Thundering Herd’s big win in South Bend last weekend has some of the team’s fans debating about the biggest win in program history. … Looking at the University of Cincinnati’s future nonconference football schedule. … And what was the deal with internet access at Paycor Stadium on Sunday?
Marshall’s 26-21 upset win over then-No. 8 Notre Dame last Saturday has stirred a fun debate among Thundering Herd fans. Is it a bigger win than Marshall’s victory over Xavier University in 1971?
The casual college football fan might be confused by that. Of course, a victory over a top-10 team and one of the most storied programs in college football history doesn’t compare to a win over a school that wasn’t good in football in 1971 and hasn’t fielded a team in nearly 50 years. Right?
But Marshall’s dramatic, 15-13 victory over Xavier on Sept. 25, 1971, in Huntington, West Virginia, was the Thundering Herd’s first win after most of the school’s players and coaches were killed in a plane crash the previous season. The Herd scored a touchdown as time expired against Xavier at old Fairfield Stadium, a moment that’s depicted in the 2006 movie “We Are Marshall.” Strapped for resources, Xavier discontinued its program two years later.
Some Herd fans are calling the Xavier victory the most “meaningful” in program history. Meanwhile, they’re calling the Notre Dame win the “biggest.” As a lifelong Herd fan, I believe that’s a good way to view both games.
Saturday was special. My eyes were watery while celebrating the victory with more than 5,000 Herd fans at Notre Dame Stadium. I always say that any day the Herd plays a football game is a huge deal given the unspeakable tragedy of Nov. 14, 1970. The Herd played like they did when the football program rose to prominence in the 1990s and early 2000s – they embraced the underdog role, played fearless, expected victory and punched a big-boy in the mouth.
The Herd’s success is good for college football. But most important, it’s good for the people of Huntington and the surrounding small towns along the Ohio River. Huntington has lost half its population since 1950, with the decline in the coal industry and related manufacturing business. The city has been hammered by the opioid crisis, the subject of a Netflix documentary.
Marshall’s football program doesn’t have a lot of big-money donors. But it has a loyal fanbase. The Herd mean a lot to Huntington. The tragedy is a big reason why Marshall fans remain loyal to the football program.
The perpetual underdog, the Thundering Herd football program endures and perseveres.
As I first reported on Twitter last week, the University of Cincinnati-North Carolina State home-and-home nonconference football series has been canceled and Marshall will replace the Bearcats on the Wolfpack’s schedule next year.
Official word came over the weekend, when Marshall athletic director Christian Spears confirmed to WOWK-TV that the Thundering Herd would play at NC State in 2023.
The Bearcats were originally scheduled to play at N.C. State next season and then host the Wolfpack at Nippert Stadium in 2029. But UC’s move to the Big 12 Conference next year has forced the athletic department to tweak future nonconference schedules.
Big 12 teams play three nonconference and nine conference games in the regular season. The Big Ten and Pac-12 have the same schedule setup. All other FBS conferences, including the American, play four nonleague and eight league games.
The decision to cancel the N.C. State series gets UC down to three nonconference games next season – vs. Eastern Kentucky (Sept. 2), at Pittsburgh (Sept. 9) and vs. Miami University (Sept. 16). That’s generally the ideal structure for future UC nonconference schedules. They’ll play one game against an FCS or Group of Five team, one against a Power Five opponent and one against long-time rival Miami.
Some fans have wanted the Bearcats to stop playing Miami each season, considering UC has won 15 straight in the series and the Victory Bell rivalry has lost its luster.
But UC will still play at least one G5 opponent each year. So why not keep the rivalry? That seems to be the thinking of UC athletic director John Cunningham, who told me last week that the Bearcats have no plans to stop playing the RedHawks.
Takeaways:What we learned from Cincinnati Bearcats’ win against Kennesaw State Owls
The Bengals’ ineptitude in Sunday’s season opener wasn’t just limited to their on-field performance.
Paycor Stadium internet service was down until midway through the fourth quarter, though some fans were able to access social media through other nearby and personal hotspot networks. Fans pay high premiums for tickets, and good in-stadium internet service is part of the modern experience of attending NFL games.
The problem was totally avoidable. The Bengals, in partnership with Altafiber, upgraded the stadium wireless internet infrastructure during the offseason, but the issue resulted from the system simply not being programmed correctly to handle a sold-out crowd of 65,841.
Good news: The problem has been fixed and fans should not have any problems accessing the internet at Paycor Stadium for the Sept. 29 primetime game against Miami, according to a team official.
Contact sports columnist Jason Williams by email at and on Twitter @jwilliamscincy.


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