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Mickey Furfari

February 10, 2014

FURFARI COLUMN- Holliday has Marshall’s 10-4 team back intact this year

MORGANTOWN — John “Doc” Holliday, Marshall University’s outstanding head football coach, was asked earlier in the week, what were the keys to his 2013 team’s 10-4 record?

 The former West Virginia University player and coach had this to say:

 “No. 1, we have really good players. And we’ve done a great job developing these players. I think the biggest improvement we’ve made overall, and to give them a chance to play for a championship or championships, was to play good defense.

 “We had some young players on defense and defensive coordinator Chuck Heater, who we got from Florida, and his staff did a great job of developing those kids. They taught those kids the proper techniques.”

 Eventually, those paid off huge dividends for the Marshall. The Thundering Herd finished the season as runner-up in the Conference USA. After falling to Rice 41-24 in the conference championship game, Marshall bounced back and defeated Maryland 31-20 in the Military Bowl at Annapolis, Md., on Dec. 27.

 This year’s 10 wins were the most since Marshall posted the same number in 2002, when Bob Pruett was the highly-successful head coach. The Thundering Herd ranked No. 25 with its strong defensive unit to complement its offense.

 “We had made progress offensively a year ago,” Holliday recalled. “We were ranked 15th nationally in offensive categories.

 “We had a step back (last year) on offense. But our better defense gave us a chance to win every game we played.”

 Holliday, who grew up in Hurricane, W.Va., said 40 of his players on the MU roster are from Florida. That’s hardly a surprise to a longtime West Virginia coach, though.

 It was Doc Holliday who established the WVU-Florida recruiting lifeline as an assistant coach under Don Nehlen, the Hall of Fame Mountaineer football mentor form 1980 through 2000.

 Holliday, who lettered here as a linebacker in 1976-77-78, graduated from WVU in 1979.

 While both pleased and proud of his team’s achievements in 2013, he was disappointed that Marshall barely lost to a favored Virginia Tech in a triple-overtime game at Blacksburg, Va.

 “Frank Beamer is a tremendous coach, who I respect very much, and all we had to do near the end was to make one play to win the game,” Holliday recalled. “But we learned from that, came back, and played for the conference championship.”

 It was really satisfying for Marshall’s coaches and players, though.

 “The way we played that day, we proved that we could play with just about anybody on any particular day,” he stated. It was suggested that the triumph over Maryland had to be telling, too.

 Those same Terps had dealt the Mountaineers their worst beating of the season; 37-0. However, the classy coach had no comment on that.

 “As I say, we’ve got really good players and about all of them will be back for this season,” Holliday said. “Hopefully, we could be even better.”

 As a head coach, he has turned out teams that posted records of 5-7 in 2010, 7-6 in 2011, 5-7 in 2012, and 10-4 in 2013.

 Significantly, veteran quarterback Rakeem Cato is returning to lead the Thundering Herd. He’s a senior from Miami, Fla.

 Doc and wife Diana have four grown children. They are daughter Meghan and sons Cade, Chase and Cody.

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Mickey Furfari
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