HUNTINGTON - After finishing on the wrong end of a 69-34 rout at West Virginia, Doc Holliday shouldn't have to motivate his Marshall troops about playing hard this week.
But the third-year coach does have more ammunition as his team prepares for the home opener at Western Carolina. He has three scores from last week to help him.
Youngstown State 31, Pittsburgh 17.
Texas State 30, Houston 13.
Tennessee-Martin 20, Memphis 17.
And it really doesn't matter to Holliday that Western is a struggling FCS school, trying to escape the bottom of the Southern Conference barrel under a first-year coach. It doesn't matter that Western is riding a 16-game losing streak to schools not named Mars Hill.
He carried that message into his Tuesday press conference, where he spent extra effort to turn the page from the WVU debacle.
Last weekend, Youngstown State went into Heinz Field and never trailed against Pitt. Houston's loss to reclassifying Texas State was followed by shakeup of the new coaching staff, with the offensive coordinator resigning. Memphis showed that yes, a bad situation can always get worse.
Which is what Holliday is trying to prevent at Marshall.
"[In] today's age of college football, it doesn't matter who you play, you better be prepared and play your tail off or you're going to get beat," Holliday said. "It's amazing in college football every Sunday you'll pick up the paper and see a team get beat that shouldn't have been beaten."
Western is coming off a 42-14 win over, you guessed it, Division II Mars Hill. It was Mark Speir's debut as a head coach, and could have been the Catamount debut of former Marshall quarterback Eddie Sullivan, who was suspended for violating team rules.
In his stead, Troy Mitchell completed 20 of 29 passes for 149 yards and ran for 38 yards with two touchdowns. He was named the Southern Conference's freshman of the week.
That performance leaves Sullivan, a sophomore, to compete for the job all over again. A decision might not be reached until Friday.
"We're going to go let them see who is the most productive this week in practice," Speir said. "We feel this competition is only going to make them better. In this offense, with as much as we do with our quarterback, you've got to have two really good quarterbacks.
Holliday said his defense certainly knows Sullivan's strengths and weaknesses, but will have to prepare for both quarterbacks - and to generally improve in tackling and all other areas. It's likely that the Catamounts have not shown their entire offensive repertoire.
"They'll run the read option, they like to get the [ball] out on the perimeter," Holliday said. "They'll run their quarterback and they do a good job of it."