Holliday: Southern Miss no different
HUNTINGTON - Much like his players, Marshall coach Doc Holliday isn't buying the 0-6 record of Southern Mississippi.
His experiences against the Golden Eagles say otherwise.
Their Conference USA East Division battle last year was hard-fought to the nth degree. The Thundering Herd needed six turnovers, other-worldly coffin-corner punting by Kase Whitehead and a Vinny Curry tackle for safety to pull a 26-20 upset.
It didn't surprise Holliday that Southern Miss rebounded to win the division and C-USA title.
In 2010, Holliday coached his first C-USA league game in Hattiesburg, on a warm night in early October. The 41-16 result could reasonably be considered hazing.
Asked of his impression of Southern Miss' M.M. Roberts Stadium, aka "The Rock," Holliday only offered this response: "I didn't have a whole lot of fond memories of that, because if I remember right we got the [expletive] beat out of us."
OK, so he forgot for a second he was the centerpiece of a major-college coach's press conference, but he can be forgiven. It's tougher to forget what can happen against Southern Miss, and he knows it can happen Saturday when the teams meet again. Kickoff from Hattiesburg is 7 p.m. EDT.
"One thing about Southern Miss, they really haven't been any different all year," Holliday said. "You are seeing the same Southern Miss team from a year ago, athletically, minus that quarterback that was a four-year starter and made a lot of plays for them."
He referred to Austin Davis, who ran for three touchdowns against the Herd in 2010 and hit a Francisco Llanos on a 90-yarder last year.
Davis started all four years and broke Brett Favre's passing and total yardage records, and is backing up Sam Bradford and Kellen Clemens for the St. Louis Rams.
The Eagles' new coaching staff struggled with the new quarterback situation, but appears to be comfortable with Anthony Alford. The true freshman from nearby Petal, Miss., threw for 165 yards and ran for 71 more with two touchdowns in a 38-31 double-overtime loss at Central Florida.
In the process, he grabbed the full attention of Holliday and his staff. So did freshman Jalen Richard, who is emerging as a complement to Desmond Johnson at running back.
"Those offensive pieces are in place. That team won 12 games a year ago and they still have good players," Holliday said. "They've had an issue at quarterback with injuries and rolling three guys, but it looks like they've settled on Alford. Like our freshman [Rakeem Cato] a year ago, he got better as the year went on and the more he played.
"I think Alford took a step in the UCF game."
The Herd coaching staff didn't get much time off last week. For one thing, the assistants hit the road recruiting, and kept their minds on recruiting when they got back. But they were able to get away from the game-week grind, at least.
"We spent Saturday watching recruiting tape," Holliday said. "It gave us a chance to make sure we're focused on the right kids, totally go over our recruiting boards, self-scout all three phases to make sure we don't have any tendencies or don't have any deals going where we're tipping off certain plays, or that type of thing.
"We really hit recruiting hard, because once we started back Sunday as far as our game prep, it's all about Southern Miss. It gave us a chance to catch our breath a little bit in other areas."
Marshall and Western Kentucky will play a home-and-home series in 2017 and 2018, WKU athletic director Todd Stewart announced this week.
The '17 game will be played in Bowling Green, Ky., with the teams playing in Huntington the next year.
Marshall leads the all-time series 4-0, with the last game a 37-3 Herd romp in 1996. WKU is 5-1 this season, with an overtime win over Kentucky and a 42-17 ambush of Southern Miss.