HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — Quarterback Grant Wells grew up knowing the story of Marshall football. The 1970 plane crash. The university’s decision to continue playing. The winning years that eventually would come.
And the importance of representing the school and honoring the fallen on the crash’s golden anniversary.
The redshirt freshman threw a season-high five touchdown passes and No. 16 Marshall commemorated the 50th anniversary of the worst disaster in U.S. sports history with a 42-14 victory over Middle Tennessee on Saturday.
“We knew that this game was going to mean so much to this fan base and this community,” Wells said. “That’s huge, no matter wherever we’re playing or whoever we’re playing. The fact that we could do this on the 50th anniversary is amazing.”
Marshall (7-0, 4-0 Conference USA) got another standout performance from its defense and turned three turnovers into scores on a day when the university remembered the 75 people killed on Nov. 14, 1970.
“Just a great day,” Marshall coach Doc Holliday said. “A special day.”
Marshall wore special black uniforms and the No. 75 on its helmets to honor those who were lost, which included most of the Thundering Herd football team. The crash occurred as the team’s plane was returning from a game at East Carolina. There were no survivors.
Wells played high school football 50 miles away in Charleston and learned about the tragedy as a young child.
“Walking out, there were a lot of emotions,” Wells said. “Then after that, I had to snap back into playing Middle Tennessee.”
And play, he did. After several early overthrows, Wells found his groove and Marshall kept the momentum for good. Wells finished 25-of-37 for 336 yards, all season highs. He threw a pair of TD passes each to Corey Gammage and Willie Johnson.
“I see it every week now,” Holliday said. “I see a young kid that’s growing up. His teammates have so much respect for him. Just proud of the way he’s maturing and growing up. He’s getting better each week.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.