By Gary Fauber
Assistant Sports Editor
Their jersey numbers were taken by younger, current members of the Marshall football team. But for a couple of moments, memories of the not-so-distant past were conjured.
It had been more than 15 years since Chad Pennington last threw a pass to Randy Moss at Joan C. Edwards Stadium, but the two hooked up once more on the very first play of the annual Green and White Spring Game on Saturday. A crowd of 9,163 roared as Pennington delivered a perfectly thrown ball into the waiting hands of Moss for an eight-yard gain.
It brought back images of the two connecting on the way to a Mid-American Conference championship in 1997, one year after Moss was catching passes from Eric Kresser en route to a Division I-AA national title.
Moments later, Byron Leftwich stood behind center, as he had done so many times from 2000-02, to take a snap. His target was not the greatest Herd receiver of all time, but former Marshall safety Chris Crocker.
Crocker went on to the NFL himself, but he doesn’t have the hands or receiver skill set of Moss.
Pennington played it safe, finding Moss open on a short route. Leftwich opted for the deep bomb to Crocker, and it fell incomplete.
“They said, ‘All you want is a hitch?’ I said, ‘We averaged 20 yards on the hitch throwing to Randy,’” Pennington said with a smile. “We don’t have to go deep to get yardage.
“I made fun of Byron. I said, ‘You went for the gusto, but you’re 0 for 1 and I’m 1 for 1.’”
Leftwich never got a chance to throw to Moss during his Marshall career, but would have appreciated the chance Saturday had he been given one.
“Chad was being selfish,” he said. “He only threw him, like, 53 of them in his career.”
It was more like 25; Kresser threw the other 28. But the point is well taken. Besides, Leftwich got the last laugh — Team Leftwich defeated Team Pennington 30-13 on a beautiful sunny day.
Gone was the rain and lightning that had marked the first four spring games under coach Doc Holliday. That lack of lightning didn’t mean an absence of electricity.
Saturday’s game was another chance for Herd fans to relive the glory days and pay homage to those who brought Marshall football on the national scale in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Leftwich, Pennington, Crocker and Moss were not the only Herd alumni on hand.
There was running back Doug Chapman, Pennington’s teammate who shared in the 1999 upset at Clemson that paved the way to an undefeated season and No. 10 national ranking. New England Patriots Hall of Famer Troy Brown was also on hand, as was defensive end Vinny Curry, who was a second round draft pick of the Philadelphia Eagles in 2013. Former long snapper Chris Massey and offensive lineman Nate McPeake attended, and there were rumors of an Ahmad Bradshaw sighting.
The weekend got started with a Big Green dinner Friday night, in which Pennington was able to secure as guest speaker Herm Edwards, his former coach with the New York Jets.
“Getting ... so many festivities packed into one weekend was great for a lot of guys to get to come back here and enjoy the weekend,” Brown said. “This is probably one of the best spring games I have been to here at Marshall.”
Pennington stressed the importance of making such reunions regular events.
“I think the common (belief) that we were all talking about this weekend is that we’ve got to do this more,” Pennington said. “We’ve got to get back more and we’ve got to get all of our guys back in the fold, celebrate their accomplishments and celebrate our program and tradition and our future.”
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