Sunday, March 31, 2002

Marshall fans, coach want to use pieces of plane as charm

Ceremony would honor victims of 1970 crash

The Associated Press

        HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — Two Marshall football fans and coach Bob Pruett want to use pieces of a crashed airplane that 32 years ago devastated the university's football program as a good-luck charm.

        The two fans, Millard Robertson of Huntington and Ric Griffith, city council president of Kenova, have saved four pieces of the plane that went down in Huntington on Nov.14, 1970, killing 75 Marshall football players, coaches and supporters.

        Now they want to encase the fuselage pieces in glass and have them used in a ritual ceremony at Marshall home games.

        Griffith told WOWK-TV he wants to establish a tradition where Marshall players touch the plane pieces as they enter the field.

        He cited similar stadium traditions where Notre Dame players touch a “Play Like a Champion Today” sign and Clemson players touch Howard's Rock.

        “As they enter the field, the fans will know that they are touching and having a personal link to the people from that crash,” Griffith said.

        Pruett said he likes the idea.

        “I don't think there would be another event in all of college sports that would have the emotion or meaning that this tradition could have,” he said. “I think it's another step toward closure and another step toward honoring those great players.”

        Robertson found the plane pieces three days after the accident on a hillside near the crash site. He saved them for 12 years, then gave them to his friend, Griffith.

        “I remember it like it was last night,” Robertson said. “I never thought it would go this far, but I'm glad it did.”

        KENTUCKY: Kentucky running back Artose Pinner is looking forward to this year's spring practice more than any other he can remember.

        The senior-to-be will be the only experienced running back on a team on NCAA probation trying to rebound from consecutive 2-9 seasons.

        “It's a huge opportunity for me, no doubt,” said Pinner, who led the team in rushing last year with 100 carries for 441 yards and four touchdowns. “During the offseason, I've worked extra hard because I know a lot more is going to be expected of me.”

        The Wildcats' poor record kept them out of bowls the past two seasons. They aren't eligible for a bowl game this season because of sanctions for dozens of rules violations turned up by internal and NCAA investigations. The penalties, including the bowl ban, were announced in February.

        “Just getting all of that behind us should be a big boost mentally,” said safety David Johnson, expected to be one of the defensive unit's leaders this season.

        Jared Lorenzen, who came off the bench midway through the season to ignite the team's stagnant offense, will go into spring drills as the starting quarterback but again will be challenged by Shane Boyd.

        Boyd replaced Lorenzen as the starter following the Wildcats' season-opening loss to Louisville and started the next five games.

        “Jared is our starter, but there's going to be competition just like there is at every other position,” coach Guy Morriss said.

        Morriss said Lorenzen again will need to drop some weight heading into fall drills. He refused to reveal the Lorenzen's current weight, which ballooned to more than 300 pounds at the end of his freshman season.

        “I don't think he's been complacent ... I think he just likes to eat,” Morriss said with a grin.


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