— By Bill Cornwell
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — Marshall’s bye week doesn’t mean it’s time for the team’s coaching staff to head for the beach or their favorite fishing hole.
Head coach Doc Holliday says a week away from competition is still a work week.
“This bye week came at a good time because it gave our coaches a chance to get out recruiting,” Holliday said. “The kids got two or three days off to catch their breath and it will be a good week to get some guys healthy.
“Other than (offensive lineman) Alex Mollette, everybody that had an issue will be back by the time Southern Miss rolls around.”
Marshall (5-2, 3-1 Conference USA) is taking its break after playing its best defensive game of the year in a 31-7 win over Lane Kiffin-led Florida Atlantic in Huntington. The Herd limited last year’s Conference USA Player of the year, FAU running back Devin Singletary, to 39 yards in the game, while the Herd got another 100-yard performance from sophomore back Tyler King and 50 yards on the ground and a touchdown from junior quarterback Alex Thomson.
King suffered a leg injury late in the FAU win and his availability is not known for next week’s game at Southern Miss.
Coaches are often concerned about a team getting stale during an off week, but Holliday is determined to ensure his team maintains its sharpness.
“It’s all about your preparation and guys taking care of business and staying focused on the job at hand,” Holliday said. “We have to continue to prepare the way we prepare.
“We’ve done a good job the last couple of weeks and that has to continue.”
Some of the recruiting work done by Marshall’s coaches at the start of the bye week might involve possible early signees who commit in the December 19-21 signing period, but Holliday says don’t expect the Herd to get many signatures before Christmas.
“We learned a lot last year and most of our recruiting came after that early signing period,” Holliday said. “It seems that there is a whole new pool of players that opens up after that early signing period and that allowed us to finish the recruiting year strong.
“We’re going to take our time and make sure that we get the right players, the right fits, and go from there.”
Holiday is pleased witht he play of both true and redshirt freshman this season.
“(Redshirt freshman defensive lineman Darius) Hodge played close to 40 or 50 reps on Saturday and he just gets better every time he gets on the field,” Holliday said. “(Redshirt freshman defensive lineman Koby) Cumberlander got out there and (freshman defensive back Steven) Gilmore gets better every week and steps up and makes plays.”
Holliday takes pride in special teams and has been happy with back-to-back solid punting performances by sophomore punter Robert Lefevre, who constantly pinned FAU deep last Saturday.
“We played with a short field that whole first half and I was concerned at that point because we had such good field position and didn’t take advantage of it,” Holliday said. “We did captalize on the short fields in the second half and the special teams, with Lefevre being more consistent punting the football and our guys covering — they have been huge for us.”
Marshall will be able to watch the C-USA scoreboard this weekend knowing it won’t be any worse than second in the league’s East Division when play ends. The Herd will probably be rooting for two teams it has already defeated this season. Western Kentucky, which lost to Marshall 20-17 on Sept. 29th, hosts East Division leader Florida Atlantic, while Old Dominion, a 42-20 loser to Marshall two weeks back, welcomes Middle Tennessee State.
If FIU loses and MTSU wins, the Panthers, Blue Raiders and Marshall will be in a three-way tie atop the East Division standings. A perfect scenario for Marshall would be for FIU and MTSU to both lose, putting Marshall into a tie with FIU, with the Blue Raiders one game back.