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24 Marshall The Thundering Herd may play at a small school, but it has big ambitions

He has cohosted a football call-in show on WMUL-FM student
radio, anchored and produced the MU Report for West Virginia
public television and scored a journalistic coup by persuading
Charlie Coles, the basketball coach at rival Miami of Ohio, to
allow him to interview RedHawks star forward Wally Szczerbiak
for the student newspaper, The Parthenon. Being the most popular
journalist in Huntington, W.Va., however, has its hazards. Last
winter, while covering the school's basketball team for The
Parthenon, Marshall quarterback Chad Pennington often was
engulfed on press row by a thunderous herd of Thundering Herd
supporters. "Not a lot of people realized I was covering games
for the student newspaper," says Pennington, a senior who is
scheduled to graduate in December with a degree in broadcast

Pennington knows something about what makes a good story. He has
passed for 10,102 yards and 85 touchdowns during his college
career. When the college season is over, he plans on devoting
his time to preparing for what he hopes will be a long career in
the NFL. Before pro football beckons, however, Pennington hopes
to lead Marshall to a second consecutive bowl victory, a Top 20
ranking and, dare to dream, maybe even win a trophy or two for
himself. The school has created an ambitious cybercampaign to
promote his long-shot Heisman hopes. "It's really hard for a guy
from a small school to win," says the 6'4", 220-pound
Pennington. "If I have a chance, it's going to be a reflection
on how well our team has done."

Expect Marshall to do very well. The Thundering Herd has 19
starters back from a 12-1 squad that dismantled Louisville 48-29
in the Motor City Bowl for the school's first bowl win.
Marshall, in fact, leads all Division I-A schools with 101 wins
this decade--Florida is second with 97 victories--and during the
off-season the coaching staff handed out T-shirts with the
number 114 nestled in one of six rings highlighting the school's
achievements in the '90s. (Marshall has gone 22-4 with two
consecutive Mid-American championships since moving up to
Division I-A before the 1997 season.)

With most of the focus on Pennington, it's easy to overlook
senior tailback Doug Chapman, who has rushed for more than 1,000
yards in each of his three seasons. The defense, which finished
16th nationally in points allowed (17.3), also doesn't get
enough recognition. Senior free safety Rogers Beckett is a
Thorpe Award candidate, while junior cornerback Danny
Derricott's six interceptions were tied for second in the nation
last year.

Pennington spent six weeks this summer in Knoxville, where he
was awash in Volunteermania. Can Huntington's favorite
journalist write a similar script for his school? "We have a lot
of potential, and everybody understands that," he says. "But
potential is another way of saying, You haven't done anything
yet. We think we're good enough to be in the Top 20. Whether we
get there or not remains to be seen."


COLOR PHOTO: AL MESSERSCHMIDT Stepping up If Marshall is to crack the Top 20, Pennington will need another super season

Fast Facts

1998 record: 12-1 (7-1, 1st in MAC East)
Final ranking: unranked

1998 Averages Scoring Rushing Passing Total
Yards Yards Yards
OFFENSE 29.8 142.3 292.0 434.3
DEFENSE 17.3 125.2 192.3 317.5


Key Games
Schedule strength: 113th of 114

Sept. 4 at Clemson
The Herd has a chance to beat another big-name opponent and
spoil coach Tommy Bowden's debut in the process.

Oct. 2 at Miami (Ohio)
This showdown will most likely be for the MAC championship and
will feature two of the nation's top players: Pennington and the
RedHawks' running back Travis Pentice.

The Bottom Line

The Thundering Herd has a shot to be undefeated and will go as
far as Pennington's golden right arm carries it.