On Nov. 5, 1977, Syracuse left upstate New York to travel to Annapolis for a late-season matchup with the Naval Academy. And as future Terrapins football coach Randy Edsall watched as a backup quarterback for the Orange, he witnessed a historic performance.
Syracuse wide receiver Art Monk, later a Hall of Famer for the Washington Redskins, caught 14 passes for 188 yards and two touchdowns as the Orange beat the Midshipmen, 45-34. The 14 receptions set a Syracuse single-game record that still stands today, and it was the most receiving yards in a game by a Syracuse player at the time.
While Edsall would return to Annapolis again in 1979 as a player, and later as a coach with the Orange and Connecticut, Monk’s day stood out in Edsall’s memory when he returned to Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium yesterday for a Military Bowl press conference with Marshall coach Doc Holliday.
“I think it’s a tremendous honor to be able to play here,” Edsall said. “I was fortunate to play here when I was at Syracuse. I remember the day Art Monk set a record. He had 14 catches I think for  yards out there on that field. Being here as a player, you walk in and you just take a look around,” Edsall said. “It’s something to me that’s very special.”
And while Edsall will already know the venue when the Terps and Thundering Herd kick off Dec. 27, his counterpart on the opposite sideline is another familiar face. Edsall and Holliday were contemporaries in college, as Holliday was a linebacker at West Virginia in the late 1970s when the Mountaineers were Big East rivals with the Orange.
Plus, Holliday also coached at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium during his time as an assistant with West Virginia and N.C. State.
“What a great venue,” Holliday said. “It doesn’t get any better than that right out there. So I know our kids will be excited about it. Our fan base will be excited about it.”
Though the game is two days after Christmas and the average high temperature for Annapolis in December is around 48 degrees, both Edsall and Holliday are expecting great turnouts from their respective fan bases. While College Park is about 35 minutes west of Navy, Marshall’s home in Huntington, W.Va., is about a six-and-a-half hour drive.
“We have a big fan base up in this area, so I’m sure they’ll be excited for the game to be here,” Holliday said. “The thing about players and college football players, their families normally all tend to follow them wherever they go. We have a lot of kids from Florida, Georgia, down in that area, but they always seem to find a way to get with their kids, especially during bowl games that happen over Christmas.”
Marshall is playing in its second bowl game under Holliday, who took over the program in 2010. Holliday has put together his best season at the helm this fall with a 9-4 record, and he’s searching for his second bowl win after winning the Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Bowl after the 2011 season.
“One thing I’ve learned throughout the years, and I’m sure Randy feels the same way, whenever you’re home for Christmas, it’s not a very good year,” Holliday said. “So that being said, we’re playing right after Christmas. We’re here for Christmas, so it’s a good thing in this business.”
So when the Terps and Marshall square off in two weeks, it will be familiar for a multitude of reasons, even though the two teams have never met. There may be little history on the field for the players, but the coaches know the familiarity that comes with the territory.
“Really, it’s an honor to be in here and play because of what the Naval Academy represents,” Edsall said. “Those are things that I will talk to our team about as well. To be in here and to be around what this stands for, and the Military Bowl, really it’s an honor for all of us.”