#25 BYU Cougars (8-3, 5-3 Mountain West) vs.
#11 Marshall Thundering Herd (11-0, 8-0 Mid-American)
Date/Time: Dec. 27, 1999/1:30 p.m. (ET)
Site: Pontiac Silverdome (80,311/Artificial Turf)
Series: first meeting
Coaches: BYU-LaVell Edwards (Utah State 1952) 251-94-3 overall, 7-13-1 in bowl games, 28th year; Marshall-Bob Pruett (Marshall 1965) 49-4 overall, 1-1 in bowl games, fourth year.
Game Notes: The #11 ranked Marshall University Thundering Herd plays in its third consecutive Motor City Bowl as champion of the Mid-American Conference. Providing the opposition will be #25 Brigham Young University of the newly formed Mountain West Conference. BYU shared the MWC title with Utah and Colorado State.
Marshall is led by Heisman Candidate finalist Chad Pennington, who finished fifth in the voting for the most prestigious individual college football award. Pennington finished third in the nation in passing efficiency (171.4), fifth in total offense (325.3) and first in touchdown passes (37). Pennington completed 275-of-405 passes for 3,799 yards with just 11 interceptions compared to his 37 touchdown passes.
BYU quarterback Kevin Feterik has some very impressive numbers also. Feterik has completed 277-of-452 passes for 3,554 yards, 25 touchdowns and 15 interceptions for an efficiency rating of 138.95.
Marshall's ground game has a statistical advantage over BYU, averaging 4.1 yards per carry to the Cougar's 3.0, however BYU played its last two games, both losses, without Luke Staley, who averaged 4.7 yards per carry (92 att., 432 yards, 10 TDs). BYU also features Fahu Tahi, who gained 445 yards on 102 carries. Marshall's Doug Chapman led the Thundering Herd with 686 yards on 164 attempts (4.2 ypc) with 12 touchdowns.
Both teams also boast receivers with eye-popping numbers. Marshall's Nate Poole grabbed 71 passes for 1,122 yards (15.8 ypc) and 9 touchdowns while BYU's Margin Hooks led the MWC with 60 receptions for 1,067 yards (17.8 ypc) and 7 touchdowns.
Marshall (12-0, 8-0 MAC) BYU (8-3, 5-2 MWC)
at Clemson W 13-10 Washington W 35-28
Liberty W 63-3 Colorado State W 34-13
Bowling Green W 35-16 Virginia L 40-45
Temple W 34-0 at Utah State W 34-31
at Miami W 32-14 at California W 38-28
Toledo W 38-13 at New Mexico W 31-7
at Buffalo W 59-3 at UNLV W 29-0
Northern Illinois W 41-9 Air Force W 27-20
at Kent W 28-16 at San Diego State W 30-7
at Western Michigan W 31-17 at Wyoming L 17-31
Ohio W 34-3 Utah L 17-20
Western Michigan W 34-30
If Marshall wins against BYU in the Motor City Bowl, the Herd would finish the season with a perfect 13-0 mark. That would make Marshall head coach Bob Pruett the only coach ever to go undefeated and win a national championship at the I-AA level (15-0 in 1996) and have a perfect season with a bowl win at the I-A level. Former Marshall head coach Jim Donnan is the only other head coach to win both a I-AA national championship (1992 at Marshall) and a bowl game (Outback 1/1/98 and Peach 12/31/98 at Georgia).
Marshall Three Peats: Marshall won its third consecutive MAC title with a thrilling 34-30 triumph over Western Michigan Dec. 3 in the MAC championship game. Marshall quarterback Chad Pennington tossed a one-yard touchdown pass to Eric Pinkerton with four seconds left for the victory.
Marshall Again At Hesiman: Marshall University is the only school to send a candidate to two of the last three Heisman presentations at the Downtown Athletic Club in New York. Quarterback Chad Pennington finished fifth this year and in 1997 wide receiver Randy Moss was among the finalists.
In the Polls: Marshall University continued to be ranked in the Top 25 national rankings. In the latest USA TODAY/ESPN Coaches' Poll, the Thundering Herd is listed #11 and in the latest Associated Press poll is also slotted at #11. The highest finish ever by a MAC team was a #10 ranking in the final UPI and AP polls attained by the 1974 Miami team that produced a 10-0-1 record.
Pennington Sets Record: With four TD passes in Marshall's 63-3 victory over Liberty on Sept. 11, Chad Pennington increased his MAC career total to 67 scoring passes, breaking the tie he held at 63 with BG's Brian McClure. Pennington has since upped that total to 100. Western Michigan's Tim Lester is second with 87 career TD strikes.
Setting Another Record: Marshall University has another record to add to its collection. The Thundering Herd program has won 113 games in the 1990s - more than any other football program has ever won in a decade. The Herd's mark of 113-25 is better than Alabama's 103-16-1 record in the 1970s. Marshall is 34-4 at the I-A level (1997-99) and 79-21 at the I-AA level (1990-96) during its run.
1999 MAC Championship Game: The Marshall Thundering Herd staged a dramatic comeback from a second-half, 23-0 deficit to win a last-second 34-30 triumph over Western Michigan in the third MAC Championship game. Chad Pennington's one-yard touchdown pass to Eric Pinkerton with four seconds left provided the game-winning points. The Broncos took a 7-0 lead on a 16-yard pass from Tim Lester to Corey Alston and Brad Selent made it 10-0 after one quarter with a 31-yard field goal. WMU pushed its lead to 20-0 at the half on a one-yard TD run by Robert Sanford and a 32-yard field goal by Selent. Selent's 36-yard three-pointer with 8:34 left in the third quarter gave WMU a 23-0 lead with 21:26 left in the game. Then in a span of 3:43, Marshall scored 20 unanswered points on a Pennington-to-Nate Poole 38-yard pass, a Doug Chapman 24-yard run and a Pennington-to-James Williams 16-yard pass. Marshall took its first lead with 12:36 left in the fourth quarter on Chapman's two-yard scoring run. Lester marched his team down the field and, with 7:20 left, and drilled a touchdown pass to tight end Jake Moreland from four yards out. Pennington then led his team on an 11-play, 74-yard drive two possessions later for the win. For the third consecutive championship game, Marshall came back from a halftime deficit to win.
1998 Motor City Bowl: Marshall won its first bowl game ever with a convincing 48-29 triumph over Conference USA representative Louisville. The Herd finished the season 12-1, with its only loss to Bowling Green. Herd quarterback Chad Pennington was voted Motor City Bowl MVP by virtue of completing 18-of-24 passes for 411 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions. Louisville quarterback Chris Redman had a busy evening with a 35-of-54 performance for 336 yards, one touchdown and one interception. Marshall piled up 613 yards of total offense and the Herd defense held the Cardinals to eight second half points as MU broke from a 21-21 halftime deadlock with a 24-0 scoring blitz in the first 15:30 of the second half. Marshall scored on eight of its last 10 possessions. In addition to Pennington's heroics, Marshall running back Doug Chapman added two second-half scoring touchdowns from one-yard out. Marshall finished the year ranked No. 27 by the Associated Press and ESPN/USA Today.
1997 Motor City Bowl: The inaugural Motor City Bowl was an instant hit, reminding football fans of the 1960s style AFL shootouts, as both teams scored touchdowns in the first 41 seconds of the game. Things never settled down until the final gun sounded with Ole Miss capturing a heart-stopping 34-31 triumph over Marshall's Thundering Herd. Led by Heisman finalist Randy Moss, Marshall's offense averaged nearly 38 points a game in 1997 while compiling a regular-season record of 9-2. The Thundering Herd earned the Mid-American Conference bid to the bowl with a 34-14 championship game victory over West Division champion Toledo. Ole Miss received an at-large bid based on its 7-4 regular season record. Seven lead changes punctuated the game with the final score coming with just 31 seconds on the clock. Bowl MVP Stewart Patridge completed 29-of-47 passes for 332 yards and three touchdowns. Marshall's Chad Pennington completed 23-of-45 passes for 337 yards and three touchdowns. Moss caught six of Pennington's aerials for 173 yards, including an electrifying 80-yard touchdown pass on Marshall's first possession. Two of the game's players, Moss, along with Ole Miss running back John Avery, both ended up going in the first round of the National Football League draft.