June 11, 2012
By JACK BOGACZYK
HUNTINGTON – Doc Holliday isn’t much of a numbers guy. The Marshall football coach is more about direction and discipline.
You know, the sort-of drill sergeant type … a salute softened by a firm handshake.
However, Holliday knows enough about the facts – and figures – as his third MU team is just shy of two months from the Aug. 5 report date for preseason drills.
He said what the program needs is more from others besides the Herd that’s 100 percent present and sweating through summer strength and conditioning.
“People talk about the (two-year record of 12-13),” said Holliday, sipping coffee in his Shewey Building office, “but we’re 8-3 in this (Edwards) stadium, and the teams we lost to weren’t too bad at all. We lost to three really good teams and we’ve beaten some good people here, too.”
Last season, the Herd fell at home only to Virginia Tech (AP-ranked No. 11 at kickoff). In 2010, Holliday’s debut season as a head coach saw home defeats to West Virginia (No. 21 at kickoff) and Conference USA rival UCF, which finished 11-3 and ranked No. 21, won the C-USA title and beat Georgia in the Liberty Bowl.
After going 7-6 and winning the Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Bowl over FIU in a 2011 season in which the Herd had only five home dates, Holliday is thrilled to have six home games again in 2012 … and wants his team to be able to take advantage of that.
“The home field advantage is important, and getting good crowds into the stadium is important,” said Holliday, back from the recent Big Green Coaches Tour for camps this week. “Getting back to six home games is really important (only 15 FBS teams played fewer than six last season). We should have the opportunity to sell more season tickets.
“We’re coming off a bowl win, seven wins, the momentum building, the schedule we’ve
“We’ve got to get to the point where there’s a demand, where people can’t just walk up and buy a ticket. Winning solves that, championships solve that.”
Marshall ranked 83rd in per-game home attendance among 120 FBS programs last season, averaging 25,874 per game at 38,019-seat Edwards Stadium (or 68.1 percent of capacity). The Herd sold 13,030 season seats.
Holliday fully grasps his Herd hasn’t raised any title flags yet, but the miniature version of the Beef Bowl trophy that sits on a credenza near his desk is indication that the Herd – likely to be one of the top or four teams in C-USA this season – is past the on-ramp and on the highway to success.
“I think we’re significantly better, much better from a personnel standpoint than we were two years ago,” Holliday said. “Our plan has been established and is in place now. The momentum, Mike (Hamrick, athletic director) calls it ‘swagger,’ is there.
“Our kids a year ago had the opportunity to take that schedule and embrace it and find a way to win seven games and find a way to win a bowl game. Those are all very positive items we took into this offseason.
As a coach, what you worry about … for us to win a championship, we have to make this the most difficult program in America, we have to be (the most difficult) in every phase, be it the weight room, academics, whatever. Our entire program has to be more difficult than anyone else’s, has to be that way.
“When you work kids as hard as we work them and require so much of them, it’s important that you have success so they can see the plan works. Now that that’s happened, they’ve totally bought into to what we’re doing. Right now, they’re a fun team to watch work.”
Marshall entered last season – its seventh in C-USA – with a frustrating combined record of 2-16 against UCF, East Carolina and Southern Mississippi. The Herd downed the last two of those at home, and a stirring overtime win over the Pirates sealed a .500 regular season and the bowl berth.
Last week, head strength coach Joe Miday said the only Edwards Stadium crowd he heard in his five seasons at MU was in 2007 for WVU’s first football visit to Marshall since 1915.
That WVU game drew the stadium record crowd of 40,383. The ECU game last season, on Thanksgiving weekend, brought only 22,456 – “but they were a passionate 22,000,” Miday said. “The passion here, when you win, is special.”
What Holliday wants to see are more people to go with that passion, as he guides a team that has only seven seniors – two of those new (and much-needed) Boston College graduates in MU senior safeties Dominick LeGrande and Okechukwa Okoroha.
“I think we’ve made significant strides each year,” Holliday said. “From Year 1 to Year 2, we’ve had to play so many young kids. These kids had no choice but to buy in, no choice.
“The ones that didn’t aren’t here anymore. I’m not proud of it, but they’re not. I think our kids totally understand what’s expected of them and they have confidence that they could go play with anybody.
“I think we took a big step last season with the bowl game, and by beating East Carolina to get there, beating Southern Miss the way we did. The win at
Louisville was huge, huge for us.
“They understand it’s no longer a personnel issue. We have the talent, so the most prepared, the most invested team wins, and that’s part of what’s going on right now.”
As for 2012, you won’t hear Holliday complaining about a schedule that has non-league road games at what figures to be a highly ranked WVU and a first Herd visit to Purdue sandwiching FCS member Western Carolina and longtime rival Ohio.
“I think it is more manageable than what it was last year,” Holliday said, “but it’s still a good schedule with good home games.
“What people don’t understand is that Ohio team won 10 games last year. We got beat bad (44-7, at Athens), we didn’t play well, but people say they’re in the MAC.
“Well, yeah, but they won 10, won a bowl, have a quarterback (Tyler Tettleton) who can play for anybody, and (Coach Frank) Solich does a great job.
“We’re on the road to West Virginia and Purdue, but the schedule is more manageable. Not only the out-of-conference, but in the league Tulsa and Houston were very good teams a year ago, and we got them on the road. Now, we’ve got those two at home, we’ve got UCF at home.”
He doesn’t want to hear any among his Herd whining about the schedule, either. That let’s-face-it attitude was crucial a year ago, he said.
“We’ll embrace it, play one at a time,” Holliday said. “I thought the one thing we did a really good job of a year ago was we knew the schedule (was difficult) going in, but my assistant coaches, our players, they embraced it.
“We didn’t complain about it, it didn’t matter that we had only five home games. We had to embrace it, the fact that it doesn’t matter who you play. You have to find a way to win it, and that’s what we did.
“That’s what we take into this season.”