The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

College Sports

October 20, 2012

Herd back in action today at Southern Miss

A lot of people are surprised, some dismayed, by Marshall’s 2-4 record. But for coach Doc Holliday, everything is still there for the taking.

Coming off a well-placed bye week, the Herd will begin work toward repeating what has shown to be a trend in the Holliday regime — a strong second half of the season. Marshall will visit Southern Miss at 7 p.m. Eastern today in a game that will be televised on CBS Sports Network.

Turnovers and a suspect defense have contributed to an unexpected slow start for Marshall, which beat the Golden Eagles 26-20 last season. Holliday said injuries have also contributed, which made the week off that much more beneficial.

“There’s no doubt (the season) is a grind,” Holliday said. “That’s six straight weeks where it’s football and classes and that’s about the extent of it. You get some guys banged up and you get some guys practicing that probably shouldn’t be practicing. Instead, they should be sitting and watching.

“It (the bye week) gives you an opportunity to catch your breath and to self-scout a little bit to make sure what you are doing offensively and defensively and on special teams and in those areas that need improvement.”

A game with Southern Miss usually has huge Conference USA East Division implications. But the Golden Eagles have likely played themselves out of the divisional race.

Southern Miss, under first-year coach Ellis Johnson, is an uncharacteristic 0-6, including league losses to East Carolina and Central Florida. The Eagles are playing with a very young roster, and the growing pains have been obvious.

Holliday, though, admires what the team has done given the circumstances.

“Ellis Johnson, with what he had to face with a young quarterback, had his hands full,” Holliday said. “He’s got Nebraska. He’s got Boise. He’s got Louisville. He goes to Western Kentucky, a team that is 5-1 and beat Kentucky. He’s got Central Florida. He’s got East Carolina. But he hasn’t lost his players. He has held them together. They’re playing extremely hard. That’s a tribute to him and that’s a tribute to that team.”

Marshall, meanwhile, is 1-1 in C-USA play and wants to finish strong. Last year’s team won five of its final seven games in the regular season, finished with a winning record in C-USA for the first time and defeated Florida International in the Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Bowl.

“This time a year ago, our football team was sitting right exactly in the same position,” Holliday said. “That football team had a small group of seniors, but those seniors played their best football the last six or seven weeks of the season ... and finished on a positive note. That’s exactly the same place we are right now. So, it’s important that our kids understand that our goals are out there.”

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