We Are Marshall is a 2006 film which tells the true story of the 1971 Marshall University football team's attempt to rebuild following a plane crash which kills most of the 1970 team and coaching staff returning from a game against East Carolina University. Most of the action involves the season after the crash, using surviving members of the team, players drawn from other sports, and freshmen (who were not normally allowed to play at the time).note The film ends with the "Young Thundering Herd"s victory against Xavier University.
This film contains examples of the following tropes:
- Adaptational Attractiveness: While it's a good performance, Matthew McConaughey looks nothing like the real Jack Lengyel, who was a fairly average-looking guy with a stocky build.
- Arc Words: "We Are Marshall" - the school's cheer serves as this and a Title Drop.
- Balcony Speech/Rousing Speech: Inverted - School president Donald Dedmon is called to the balcony to see the assembled student body chanting "WE ARE MARSHALL!"
- Based on a True Story: While it takes some dramatic license to better fit all the feelgood sports movie tropes, it's fairly faithful to how the real story played out, particularly in how Underdogs Never Lose was averted. Some details that might seem like fiction were absolutely true—Bobby Bowden really did help the Marshall program get back on its feet, and the Down to the Last Play game at the climax really did happen that way, a 15-13 win over Xavier via a screen pass touchdown.
- Locked Out of the Loop: Red Dawson's wife, believing him to be on the plane, isn't told that he had decided to drive back and do a recruiting errand along the way (the neighbor he called forgot while watching a game show). She spends the majority of the evening thinking that her husband has been killed.
- Misfit Mobilization Moment: Nate Ruffin rallying the remaining team members to go gather up the student body for their inverted Balcony Speech.
- Outliving One's Offspring: Obviously this happened for many of the parents of players on the team. The film focuses on the grief of Paul Griffin, whose only son was killed in the crash and whose wife died several years earlier.
- Ragtag Bunch of Misfits: The "Young Thundering Herd" was made up of players who couldn't make the East Carolina trip, freshmen (who, at the time, had to get special permission to play) , walk-ons and athletes from other sports. While the team being reformed in the aftermath of a terrible tragedy is very inspirational, a bunch of the team's worst players, athletes from other parts of the university, walk-ons, and freshmen are not going to put on a winning season until they get better.
- Save Our Team: The entire point of the Balcony Speech.
- Underdogs Never Lose: Defied - The Herd only wins once, on screen, and the ending text reveals that was the last game they'd win for a while. Also justified, as the new team was made up of some of the worst players, athletes from other parts of the university's sports programs, walk-ons, and freshmen.
- You Are in Command Now: Defied - Red Dawson, the only surviving member of the coaching staff, defers to new athletic director Jack Lengyel in leading the team.
- Young Future Famous People: Bobby Bowden, then in the second year of his first major college coaching job at West Virginia University, meets with Jack and offers generous assistance to fellow West Virginia school Marshall in restarting its football team. In 1976 Bowden moved to Florida State, where he stayed for 34 seasons, winning two national championships along the way.