HUNTINGTON - Three days after his team pulled off a harrowing 24-23 road win against Florida Atlantic, Marshall coach Doc Holliday marveled at his team's effort, focus, confidence and general excitement.
As the Thundering Herd turns its attention to an Oct. 24 bout at Middle Tennessee, the fourth-year coach expects more of the same the rest of the season.
"From a confidence standpoint, that's the first time since I've been here," Holliday said. "When that offense took that ball over on that first drive that we had to go down and score, the entire defense and everybody was out there when they went on the field. And when the defense was out there, the offense was up there on the field with the defense, trying to get it done.
"The third drive, the entire team was out there as the offense took the field. So leadership on the sidelines and in the locker room, the things we've been talking around here for a long time, looks like it's starting to take effect, and we won the game because of it."
Marshall took possession with 10:01 left, a 23-14 point deficit and the ball on its 12-yard line after the team's only special-teams mistake - Deandre Reaves' decision to run the kickoff out of the end zone. Three things had to happen, simple to define but tough to execute - score a touchdown and a field goal, with a defensive stop in between.
Several other events happened, before and during those last 10 minutes, for Marshall to take the early lead in Conference USA's East Division.
Devon "Moo Moo" Smith's long punt return, Amareto Curraj's four touchback kicks, 177 total yards in the fourth quarter, a summertime strength program that carried players through the fourth quarter, you name it.
"Any of those things go wrong and we're probably not sitting here joking around," Holliday said at his Tuesday press conference. "[Defensive tackle James] Rouse, I think on the 76th [defensive] play of the game, made a tremendous play. As a defensive lineman, you all don't notice that. Here's a kid that, the 76th play of the game, he takes that guard and about decapitates him to help us get that stop that last series.
"A lot of things had to happen for us to win that game and fortunately, they did."
And now, the emphasis swings to the MTSU game, which kicks off at 7:30 p.m. on the 24th with the game airing on Fox Sports 1.