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Marshall football: Mitchell, Smith healthy, to play at Southern Miss

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. -- Marshall football fans should see some faces they haven't seen yet this season when the Thundering Herd visits Southern Mississippi on Saturday.

The Herd's off week allowed some banged up players to get healthy and some who were injured for the first half of the season to return to the field, Coach Doc Holliday said at his Tuesday press conference. The Herd (2-4, 1-1 Conference USA) plays the winless Golden Eagles (0-6, 0-2) at 7 p.m. Saturday (CBS Sports Network).

Both junior defensive lineman Ken Smith and redshirt junior linebacker Billy Mitchell have practiced since last week and should be ready for Saturday, Holliday said.

"They started last week and they'll rotate in there," he said. "You'll see them take a lot of reps."

Smith, a transfer from Blinn (Texas) Community College, had hopes of injecting himself into the starting lineup after arriving in the spring, but had not practiced until now because of a back injury. Mitchell also was out with a concussion, and Holliday said his experience will be welcome.

Mitchell played in all 13 games last season, starting one, and recorded 22 tackles. He also broke up two passes and recovered two fumbles.

"He enjoys being out there," Holliday said. "Billy's one guy that has played a lot for us and having him back is going to help a lot for us. Adding both of those guys is going to help us, without question."

The off week also helped Marshall's offensive line heal. Holliday said junior tackle Garrett Scott will be "as healthy as he's been all year," after being hobbled with an ankle injury. Sixth-year guard John Bruhin, who has been nursing a number of bumps and bruises and didn't enter the Ohio game until the fourth quarter, also got some needed rest.

One player who won't be on the field Saturday is cornerback Travon Van. Van shifted from starting tailback to backup corner for the Rice game but wasn't on the travel roster for the Purdue game. Holliday said an injury popped up several days ago that has kept him on the sideline. He mentioned numbness in an arm, but declined to discuss further specifics.

"He's got an issue injury-wise where he cannot practice," Holliday said. "He has not been cleared by our doctors for physical contact. He's had that issue since he's been here."

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THE HERD is scheduled to play Western Kentucky in a home-and-home series in 2017 and 2018. Marshall will visit WKU in 2017 and host the Hilltoppers in 2018. The Bowling Green Daily News reported that WKU Athletic Director Todd Stewart announced the deal Monday. Marshall Athletic Director Mike Hamrick declined comment Tuesday. The Hilltoppers are 5-1 this season, their lone loss coming against top-ranked Alabama. They did edge Kentucky in overtime and beat Southern Miss, 42-17.

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SECOND QUARTERS haven't been kind to the Herd during some parts of the season. Marshall allowed 21 points to West Virginia in the second, as the Mountaineers ran away with that game. The Herd gave up 17 to Ohio in that quarter, which erased a two-touchdown lead. Marshall allowed 28 second-quarter points to Purdue, including two interceptions returned for touchdowns. All three games were losses.

Holliday said MU can't fall into a hole going into halftime this week. History shows that hole is pretty tough to escape.

"Starting fast in any game helps you, as far as your momentum goes," he said. "That's been a goal of ours all along, to get out of the blocks and start fast. Hopefully we can start fast, because we have players back who are healthy."

 Contact sportswriter Derek Redd at derek.redd@dailymail.com or 304-348-1712. His blog is at blogs.dailymail.com/marshall.


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