Marshall Thundering Herd: College Football’s 2014 ‘Rudy’


Let me just set the record straight: I hate the movie Rudy. I think it’s one of the most over rated and contrived sports movies of all time and I think it’s one of the worst sports movies with football as a backdrop of all time. People will say it’s about the ‘little guy’ overcoming extreme obstacles in life just to have a shot at playing a few snaps at Notre Dame. At 5 ft 6 in and 185 pounds, Daniel ‘Rudy’ Ruettiger also had dyslexia, but he put the work in and eventually was allowed to dress for his final game and recorded a sack on the final possession of Georgia Tech in 1975, his only stat line. He would become one of only 2 players to ever be carried off the field by his teammates at Notre Dame. It sounds like a ‘feel good’ movie right? Bottom line is this: Rudy was a practice player/scout team. He was supposed to make the rest of the starters better. You ask any starting college player or NFL player what they think of the movie Rudy and they’ll tell you they’ve played with a ‘Rudy’ before at all levels. Not that they deserve to be there, but know your place, don’t get anybody injured and remember that we’re on the same team and for goodness sake: slow your roll.

Which brings us to the 23rd ranked Marshall Thundering Herd. 8-0, 4-0 in Conference USA. They have a probability of going undefeated at nearly 70%, as compiled by some stat I saw last night. So why are they the ‘Rudy’ of this season and am I saying that’s a detriment to them and their accomplishments? No, far from it. Marshall is the actual story of Rudy rather than the movie, huge difference. No overacting needed. No cheesy dialogue. The Thundering Herd get it done on the field and let their winning do the acting for them.

If you watched the Tom Rinaldi piece on Marshall’s QB Rakeem Cato back in September, then you know the roots of him. You know where he’s from (Liberty City, Dade County) and you know how his mother died when Cato was 13 (pneumonia). Huntington, West Virginia was probably the last place on earth Rakeem Cato thought he’d ever be. He was small for a QB (6-1, 155 pounds) but man could he sling that ball around. In his senior year at Marshall, his total yards for his career is over 12,000 yards with 111 TD passes. Can you hear me Downtown Athletic Club in New York where the Heisman is awarded?

Backing him up is his best friend Tommy Shuler, who went to Miami Central with Rakeem Cato. They won a state championship at Miami Central together in 2010 with Shuler catching the bulk of Cato’s passes and now as the two lead the Thundering Herd to a 23rd ranking, many in the college football world are asking if they are for real.

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48-7, 48-17, 56-14, 45-13. Those are some of the scores that Marshall has put up against their opponents. My guess is that they are for real, but do they belong in the pantheons of the likes of Florida State, Oregon, and Ohio State much less a Top Ten ranking? Never has the moniker of Rudy stood out so much as it does with this ‘Herd.’

But they do belong when they’ve got Cato at the helm and a bruising running back in Devon Johnson. What did he do on Saturday? 272 yards and 4 touchdowns. Ho hum right?

Oct 25, 2014; Huntington, WV, USA; Marshall Thundering Herd running back Devon Johnson (47) celebrates his second touchdown against the Florida Atlantic Owls with teammate wide receiver Justin Hunt (9) in the second quarter at Joan C. Edwards Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Michael Shroyer-USA TODAY Sports

Marshall has 4 games left. At Southern Miss, Rice, at UAB, and Western Kentucky at home. They don’t need luck to make it to the College Football Playoff, they need a miracle, a Rudy-like miracle. If the people that decide on such things take a look at Marshall, then they’ll give you all that they got. I fully expect to see Rakeen Cato play on Sundays just like I fully expect him to be in New York that Saturday in December. What a great speech that will be if he wins, as I don’t expect a dry eye in the house.

Keep winning Marshall. Just like Rudy. People said he didn’t belong, just like inevitably they’ll say to you in late November when you’re still undefeated and ranked #12 or so. Don’t just be the ‘feel good’ story of 2014, but take it to them for the rest of us ‘Rudys,’ no overacting needed. Hey at least Rudy had Vince Vaughn and Jon Favreau in it right?