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Chad Pennington: 'See It to Believe It'

Posted Sep 7, 2017

During his two-year career at Marshall University, Randy Moss scored 55 total touchdowns in 28 games, 54 of which came in the air.

And while it seemed like the superstar wide receiver caught at least one touchdown in every game, he didn’t.

Former Marshall quarterback Chad Pennington can tell you why.

“The only game he did not catch a touchdown pass was against Northern Iowa in the [semifinals] of the [Division 1-AA] playoffs in 1996,” Pennington said. “They triple teamed him, we rushed for 300-plus yards, we gave him a reverse, and he still scored.

“They had run a linebacker underneath him, put a corner on him and put a safety over the top,” Pennington added.

Pennington’s memory checks out perfectly even though he didn’t play in that game. The Thundering Herd, who went on to win the Division 1-AA championship, ran for 316 total yards. Moss had three catches for 46 yards and, just as Pennington noted, scored on a 32-yard reverse.

Pennington is a former first-round draft pick who spent 11 seasons with the Jets and Dolphins, throwing for 17,823 yards and 102 touchdowns.

He only spent one season throwing to Moss at Marshall, as the quarterback redshirted in 1996 when Moss arrived on campus.

When the two teamed up in 1997, Marshall’s first season as a Division 1-A program, Moss had 96 receptions for 1,820 yards and 26 receiving touchdowns.

Marshall went 10-3 and won the Mid-American Conference before falling to Mississippi in the Motor City Bowl in Detroit.

“1997 was a year where we did not receive a lot of respect as a [former] 1-AA team, and Randy didn’t receive a lot of respect as a 1-AA player,” Pennington said. “Every 1-A team we played, from [the season opener against] West Virginia through the Mid-American Conference to Ole Miss in the bowl game, always began the game guarding him 1-on-1. Then we would always beat them, and they would have to change the game plan in the middle of the game.

“Even the last game, the 13th game of the year against Ole Miss in the Motor City Bowl, we felt like they had seen enough film on Randy that they would probably start the game double-teaming him. They did not, and the first play of the game we hit them with an 80-yard touchdown pass,” Pennington added. “Everybody had to learn the hard way with Randy because I don’t think the film truly did him justice as to what type of receiver and athlete he was. You had to experience it and see it to believe it.”

Moss was a Heisman finalist in 1997 along with cornerback Charles Woodson and quarterbacks Peyton Manning and Ryan Leaf. The wide receiver finished fourth.

Pennington, who would finish in the top five of the Heisman voting in 1999, said although Moss didn’t win, it didn’t diminish the extraordinary career at Marshall.

“Randy could have easily won it compared to the other three; I just think they didn’t know much about Randy,” Pennington said. “There wasn’t enough information out there to truly appreciate what he was bringing to the football field.”