Cole Pennington’Stays Good Bye To the Marshall Thundering….

After just one season with the Marshall Thundering Herd, quarterback Tj McMahon is entering the transfer portal for the second time in his collegiate career. He originally spent three seasons with the Rice Owls in Conference USA. McMahon was not on Marshall’s spring roster, which eventually prompted his decision.


Last season with the Thundering Herd, McMahon only saw action in two games, completing the one pass he threw. Last season, Cam Fancher was Marshall’s starting quarterback and in their bowl appearance, they shifted to Cole Pennington in their bowl game loss to the UTSA Roadrunners.

Despite the lack of playing time for McMahon, he’s still shown signs of being an accomplished starter at the collegiate level. In 2022 with Rice, the graduate student threw for 2,102 yards and 18 touchdowns.

Prior to his time at Rice, McMahon spent one season at the JUCO level where he threw for 2,667 yards and 25 touchdowns against five interceptions. He completed 194 of his 295 passes.

Although Cole Pennington may have an opportunity to become the starting quarterback, his competition which they brought in through the transfer portal won’t make it any easier with Tulsa transfer Braylon Braxton who played in six games this past season and Wake Forrest transfer Mitch Griffis who threw for 1,553 yards and nine touchdowns in his n

Marshall Pennington
Marshall quarterback Cole Pennington looks to pass against Georgia Southern during the second half Saturday in Huntingt

On Tuesday of this week, Marshall made official the news that had been circulating among the fans for most of the weekend — head coach Charles Huff has hired Purdue tight ends coach and former Texas Tech quarterback Seth Doege to be the Thundering Herd’s new offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach.

Then on Wednesday morning news broke that Cam Fancher, MU’s starting quarterback, had entered his name into the NCAA transfer portal, and it’s hard not to assume that Fancher saw the writing on the wall with Doege’s arrival to run the offense and opted to take his game elsewhere.

Quarterback is always the most important position on a football team, and if there has been one consistent theme through Huff’s three years at Marshall it has been inconsistency at quarterback.

Grant Wells was good one drive, then very bad the next during the 2021 season that saw Marshall fall just short of a Conference USA championship game appearance. Henry Colombi came to Huntington as a transfer from Texas Tech and helped lead MU in its historic upset of Notre Dame, but injuries and inconsistency derailed his 2022 season, which opened the door for Fancher.

Once the job was his, Fancher was just as inconsistent as his predecessors. Marshall, however, was winning games to close out 2022 and then opened 2023 4-0 before more quarterback injuries, and some stubbornness on the part of coach and player, sent the Herd spiraling and scraping to get to 6-6.

So, with Fancher out of the program, the Frisco Bowl against UTSA on Dec. 19 will be Cole Pennington’s opportunity to get a leg up on the quarterback competition going into 2024. He’ll have a chance to showcase what he can do for a new offensive coordinator and could do himself a big favor by showing out against the Roadrunners.

But make no mistake, there will be a quarterback competition at Marshall next spring and summer. There have been reports that Marshall is interested in Holy Cross transfer quarterback Matthew Sluka, but whether it’s him or someone else this will likely be a decision that goes a long way toward determining if 2024 is Huff’s final year at Marshall.

Huff will be in the last season of his four-year contract with MU in 2024. That means there is no long-term vision for the program and everything is about winning now. There is no 2025 for this coaching staff at Marshall if 2024 goes off the rails. Finding the right quarterback to run things for his new offensive coordinator will be a big part of that.

Huff will have to have better luck and perhaps a better eye for talent if that is to be the case. Remember, Tim Cramsey was his first offensive coordinator at MU before elevating Clint Trickett into the role — and two years later it’s apparent that was a big miss.

The Herd coach hasn’t been great at plucking quarterbacks from the transfer portal either. Colombi was decent before things went sideways in 2022 — some combination of injuries, poor play and poor coaching. Whatever it was, the experience was bad enough that he and his father still take time to drag the Marshall coaching staff on social media. Last offseason it appeared Huff and the Herd would hit the portal hard looking for another QB, but that endeavor proved fruitless with former Rice quarterback T.J. McMahon coming in and throwing exactly one pass this season.

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Allow me to be the latest to write about what a mess the College Football Playoff created for itself.

By now you probably are aware that unbeaten Florida State was left out of the four-team field in favor of 12-1 Alabama. Sure, the committee that decides claims to have followed the letter of the law when it comes to how they are supposed to pick the top four teams, but that doesn’t hold much water with me. These same people have ignored those guidelines a bunch of times during the previous nine seasons the CFP has existed — just last season TCU got in over teams many considered “better.”

Let’s just call college football what it is — it’s entertainment. College football, at the highest level, is no longer a sport. It’s a beauty pageant where what happens on the field only matters if it fits the narrative — which is whatever brings in the most eyeballs and ad dollars.

So no, Florida State, you do not get an invite to the party with your third string quarterback. No, it doesn’t matter that you’re 12-0 and just beat a top-15 Louisville team to win the ACC title. Alabama vs. Michigan, Nick Saban vs. Jim Harbaugh — that’s the more entertaining and profitable matchup, so that’s what we get.

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