By Jack Bogaczyk
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. – The last thing Coach Doc Holliday wants is for his Marshall football team to dwell on a just-removed, very special season-opening Sunday.
Appreciate it, yes? Savor it, yes? But the only focus in the Herd’s rear view mirror has to belong to the veteran coach, with Marshall pointing toward Saturday’s 7 p.m. visit to Peden Stadium and the 59th meeting with neighboring rival Ohio.
At his weekly Tuesday news conference, Holliday talked of the special surroundings and trappings that accompanied the Herd’s 41-31 opening win over Purdue, the first Big Ten visitor in Marshall history …. And the first team from that power conference to fall to the Herd.
Holliday began his media session with kind an appreciation for the over-capacity Joan C. Edwards Stadium crowd of 38,791, and the green-clad emotion that enveloped the game. He finished the session by expounding on similar sentiments.
“I just want to start out by thanking our fan base and our community for the great atmosphere we had; just to tell you how much that meant to our football team,” Holliday said. “That being said, it’s time to move on and put that game behind us.
“As you know, we’ve got a great challenge; Ohio is a well-coached team and our team … we have to have a great week of preparation in order to go up there and play with these guys.”
While the Bobcats opened the season with a long trip and a win at Idaho last Thursday, the Herd’s Sunday game gave Ohio three additional days to prepare for the latest “Battle for the Bell” game. Holliday noted that, but in his final analysis was OK because of what occurred Sunday at “The Joan.” “Anytime you play, you have to put it behind you quick,” the Herd coach responded when asked about the short week following a special win. “You’ve got to move on regardless. Our guys have been able to do that and we have to make sure that happens soon. In our case, it’s a really quick turnaround because we have one less day.
“They did a good job of scheduling; they played on Thursday, which means they have three extra days on us, plus (playing) Sunday didn’t help us. They were smart. It was great exposure for us; we had to do what we did, but it makes it tough going into this week, so we have a lot of catching up to do. Our kids worked extremely hard at it (Monday) and we’ll get back to work again today.”
Asked later to reflect on Sunday’s game and if anything struck him that hadn’t in the hour or so after the game, Holliday didn’t point to anything strategically or schematically he saw on the game tape.
“I just thought it was really a physical game. I’m not sure it was a fun game to coach; it was a fun game to watch, just if you’re a fan. I got a call – this is amazing – I get back to my office and (San Diego Chargers quarterback) Philip Rivers texts me, said I hadn’t talked to him since I signaled (plays) in to him on the NC State sideline (2000-03). He and his son were watching the game.
“That being a Sunday game, and the only game on (TV), people all over the country saw the game … how much exposure we got from it, and the number of people that called and said what a great atmosphere it was.
“People couldn’t get over it. I know people called Mike (Hamrick, Marshall’s athletic director) and said ‘That’s an ACC/SEC atmosphere’ that was here Sunday. Well, you know what? That’s what it’s supposed to be. When you have championship teams — that’s a championship fan base that was out there.
“If I could take anything away … That was the biggest thing to me, is how the atmosphere was. It was a good football game. It was two teams, well-coached, very physical and they were going at it. At the end of the day, somebody had to find a way to win it. And fortunately, we did.”
Holliday said he wasn’t concerned in his team getting caught up in history, whether it be about the Purdue victory or back-to-back losses at Ohio in games in which Marshall has had six and four turnovers (2011 and ’13).
“We’ve done a good job of that in the last couple years,” the sixth-year Marshall coach said when asked a potential emotional letdown. “This team is a lot more mature. Again, you’ve got great leadership. They understand if you get any emotional letdown against these guys, you’re not going to win the game.
“You better be prepared to play and be prepared to play an extremely physical game or you’ve got no chance. That’s just the way those guys always are and they always play that way and if we don’t, we’ll get beat. They have to figure it out and they will.”
It’s the sixth – and final – regular-season game in this portion of a series that dates to 1905, a rivalry that formerly was played in the Mid-American Conference (1953-68 and 1997-2004). Ohio leads the series, 32-20-6, but Marshall has won 11 of the last 15.
So, the Herd and Bobcat veterans are no strangers and Holliday said that aids in preparation, particularly with one fewer day than usual to work.
“There’s familiarity with this team,” he said. “We’ve played them every year in the past few years, so we know a little bit about them going in, and of course there was only one game tape from this year.
“So, we had an idea of what we had to do gameplan-wise, but our kids understand who they are. They understand that they’re extremely tough kids, they’re well-coached, they love ball, they play extremely hard and they always do. We have to match their intensity; we have to play like they do or we have no chance.”