Marshall football: Holliday warns against a letdown
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - Soon after Marshall football Coach Doc Holliday sat down for his weekly press conference, he started rattling off scores from college football's opening weekend. He wasn't trying out for the nightly newscast. He was trying to make a point.
The scores were from the seven games where Football Championship Subdivision schools beat Football Bowl Subdivision schools. Some, like North Dakota State's 24-21 win at Kansas State, were surprising. Others, like McNeese State's 53-21 win over South Florida, were downright embarrassing. Holliday doesn't want the Thundering Herd added to that list when it hosts Gardner-Webb at 6:30 p.m. on Saturday.
"There were seven teams last Tuesday that were kind of in the same boat that we were," he said, "and for whatever reason, whether it was preparation, whether it was overconfidence or whatever it was, they woke up Sunday morning and they weren't very happy."
The Herd was happy as could be after shutting down and shutting out Miami (Ohio) in the second half of a 52-14 blowout. That game was 14-14 at halftime, and the RedHawks gained just 55 yards in the second half.
The Runnin' Bulldogs (1-0) come to Joan C. Edwards Stadium on a high note, too, coming back from a two-touchdown deficit to beat Furman, 28-21. Gardner-Webb has little success versus FBS opponents, its lone win in nine tries coming in 2010 with its 38-37 overtime win versus Akron.
But Marshall coaches don't have to hearken back to a few years ago, when Appalachian State stunned Michigan, to talk about upsets. They only have to look back a couple of days, and senior defensive end Jeremiah Taylor said they have.
"A few times," Taylor said. "Nowadays, everyone's doing the same thing and preparing the same way. People have the weight rooms and the conditioning and the gaps are starting to shrink a little bit. Guys are starting to be able to play with each other. We've just come out, stay focused and do what we do and we'll be fine."
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HOLLIDAY ALSO named the captains for Saturday's game - quarterback Rakeem Cato, tight end Gator Hoskins, defensive lineman James Rouse and Alex Bazzie. That was based, Holliday said, on their performance in Marshall's win over Miami (Ohio) and their leadership through camp.
Cato threw for 253 yards and five touchdowns and ran for 59 yards, while Hoskins caught three passes for 38 yards and two of those catches were touchdowns. Bazzie recorded three tackles and a quarterback hurry against Miami, while Rouse, who spent the most of the previous two seasons out with an injury, recorded two tackles, one for a loss.
"You talk about a guy who's overcome adversity," Holliday said, "most players out there, if they had to go what he's gone through, would have given up football. He just persevered, continues to work extremely hard, has a great attitude, played Saturday and played extremely well."
After sitting all but three games in 2011 because of a back injury and the entire 2012 season due to a torn Achilles tendon, Rouse was happy to just be on the field and healthy. To be a captain is icing on the cake.
"I was really nervous at first, before the game," he said. "But I got settled in after a couple of drives and it just felt good to be out there."
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THE DEFENSE'S dominating performance could be attributed, at least in part, to a deeper roster, Holliday said. After watching the film, he said no defender played more than 36 of Miami's 57 offensive plays.
"That tells me we're rolling a lot of guys in there that are playing a lot of reps," Holliday said. "Where that helps you, now when we're kicking off and punting and doing all those special teams, we can get our better players on special teams because we're not having to play 70 or 80 snaps on defense."
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MARSHALL PICKED up a late transfer who will be eligible beginning next season - former Virginia Tech defensive back Donaldven Manning. Manning will have three years of eligibility remaining after sitting out one. Virginia Tech announced his departure from the team in August.
Manning, who attended Miami (Fla.) Central High, was a Class 6A all-state second team corner and rated both the country's 11th best corner and Florida's 27th-best overall player by Rivals.com. He played in eight games for the Hokies last season, recording four tackles and an interception, and was listed as a starter on Virginia Tech's June depth chart.
The Herd also have a new kicker on the roster, 6-foot-3, 178-pound Kaare Vedvik of McPherson, Kan.
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THE HERD isn't sure whether it will have its full complement of running backs for Saturday's game. Holliday said Kevin Grooms - the 2012 Conference USA freshman of the year who carried the ball just four times for 51 yards against Miami - will play if he's ready and healed from his sprained ankle.
"We'll see," Holliday said.
Remi Watson, who sat out the Miami game with an injury, should play, Holliday added. Linebacker Stefan Houston (ankle) will practice this week and should play, but he wasn't sure about offensive lineman Cameron Dees (concussion) or corner Keith Baxter (undisclosed).
Contact sportswriter Derek Redd at email@example.com or 304-348-1712. His blog is at blogs.dailymail.com/marshall. Follow him on Twitter @derekredd.