HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - For the spotlight that Thursday night games provide, Marshall University football Coach Doc Holliday can live with a few logistical difficulties.
Holliday's Thundering Herd plays the first of two Thursday night games this season this week, traveling to Middle Tennessee State for a 7:30 p.m. kickoff on Fox Sports 1. He said the extended preparation period - Marshall hasn't played since beating Florida Atlantic on Oct. 12 - has helped alleviate some of that pressure. He feels the benefits are worth it.
"I like Thursday night games because of the exposure our program gets," Holliday said. "Any time we can get the 'M' on television on a national stage, it helps recruiting. It helps us in all areas. From an exposure standpoint, I do like it."
He admits, though, it comes with a price. He'll feel more of a pinch on preparation time later this year, when the Herd has to turn around after a Nov. 9 game versus the University of Alabama at Birmingham to visit Tulsa on Nov. 14. But, even this week has jumbled the schedule, changing practice times to accommodate class schedules and keeping players out of some mid-week classes in order to travel.
"The miss about all Wednesday afternoon because of travel, then all of Thursday, then you have to say, 'Get to class at 8 'o clock Friday morning,' when we're not getting back into town until 4 in the morning.
"Just the amount of time they miss in class is bothersome," he said, "but they have to find a way to get it done in the classroom and they do. But the exposure is just tremendous and you can't trade that."
* * *
LIFE ON MTSU'S offensive line is pretty different between the left and right sides. The Blue Raiders' two healthiest linemen are on the left - redshirt junior guard Josh Walker (6-foot-5, 323 pounds) and redshirt sophomore tackle Darius Johnson (6-3, 293) - and Holliday considers both future NFL players. The rest of the group is in flux due to injuries. True freshman Daniel Stephens (6-2, 295) is penciled in to start at right guard as redshirt senior Jadareius Hamlin (6-2, 284) deals with knee and hand injuries.
Redshirt junior Isaiah Anderson (6-4, 268) is slated to start at right tackle, but is fighting through an ankle injury and has redshirt freshman Hunter Rogers (6-7, 313) behind him. And redshirt junior Nick Nunez (6-4, 292) is the projected starter at center, but he's only started the last two games. Redshirt freshman Josh Chester (6-3, 298) started three of the first four.
Yet Holliday doesn't figure MTSU Coach Rick Stockstill will shuffle linemen between the right and left sides to even things out.