By Gary Fauber
Assistant Sports Editor
Anyone who claims indifference or a disdain for the Friends of Coal Bowl, know this: Doc Holliday isn’t buying it.
“If anybody ever said that they weren’t interested in that game, I think they would be kidding themselves,” Holliday said of the series that will officially end somewhere around 3:30 p.m. Saturday, barring natural disaster. “Every year that game is sold out. I’ve had so many calls for tickets I could have probably sold out half of what they have left.
“There’s not a game (in the series) I have been involved in that hasn’t been a sellout and a great TV game. It’s good for the state.”
Marshall has lost to West Virginia every time the two have met, and most WVU fans have expressed, in no uncertain terms, that the series cease permanently. Yet, fans of both teams continue to show up, and a guaranteed sellout of more than 60,000 for Saturday’s noon kickoff shows that will be the case again.
Both teams recruit the state of Florida, and with the game aired nationally on FX, the game will be important in that sense, as well.
Holliday, now in his third year as Marshall’s head coach, has said all week that the game is important because it’s the first one of the season, and the opponent just happens to be West Virginia. But he’s not downplaying what the series means.
“For me to sit here and tell you it’s not a big game, I won’t do that, because it is,” Holliday said. “It’s big anytime you play against a state rival. The kids enjoy playing it, and I know the fans enjoy it. It’s important that we go up there and continue to prepare and play well.”
Last year’s game could turn out to be the most memorable, not because of the game itself, but because of the severe lightning that eventually forced an early end to WVU’s 34-13 win.
The positive to come out of it for Marshall is that a lot of players who will line up Saturday were in last year’s game as well.
“Those guys evolve,” Holliday said. “Not only did they play WVU last year, but they went on the road and beat a good Louisville team a year ago. They went on the road and won a bowl game as well. So those guys have some experience and confidence that will carry over to this year.”
While Holliday would like to see the series resume at some point, he will leave it to the decision makers.
“I do regret seeing the series come to an end,” Holliday said. “I think it’s something that should continue, but I have more pressing issues than that. I have to make sure this team is ready to play this first game and the next games all the way to the end of the season.”
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