When Marshall and WVU take the field on September 4th there will be several major differences from the game one year ago. Most notably, Dana Holgorsen will be patrolling the gold and blue sidelines which means one of the more intriguing storylines from last year is gone, just like former WVU coach Bill Stewart.
Undoubtedly a win over WVU would be one of the biggest in Marshall history and for Doc Holliday it would be the first signature win in his young head coaching career in Huntington. However, for Doc Holliday, personally, would winning last year’s game have been more meaningful?
Doc Holliday vs. Bill Stewart was one of the personal storylines we followed leading up to, during, and after last year’s Coal Bowl in Huntington. There was no doubt that Holliday had something to prove in his first game against his old school. It was even more clear after the game that Holliday took the loss personally. Holliday took each loss last year hard, but none more than that one. Then there was the controversial handshake between Holliday and Stewart following Marshall’s overtime loss.
Holliday had spent a large chunk of his life giving his all for the gold and blue. He was a three-year letterman there from 1976-1978. He started his coaching career as a graduate assistant in 1979 and went on to serve in a variety of coaching positions at his alma mater that included serving as the wide receivers coach from 1983-1989 and again from 1993-1999, the inside linebackers coach from 1990-92 and as the assistant head coach from 1995-99.
Holliday’s goal was always to become the head coach, but over 31 seasons he was passed over… again and again.
Even when Rich Rodriguez abruptly departed Morgantown in 2007, Holliday’s own alma mater didn’t give him the chance to be the head man. Instead that opportunity went to then-assistant head coach Bill Stewart after an emotional victory over Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl.
So when Holliday got the chance as Marshall’s head coach to play his old team and his old boss I’m certain there was no lack of motivation.
Now things have changed. Stewart is gone and several of the coaches Holliday worked with were shown the door. Dana Holgorsen and the assistants he brought with him don’t know Doc Holliday from Adam and, conversely, the same can be said for Doc and the new WVU crew.
Stew or no Stew, Doc Holliday and his team want this game badly, probably worse than WVU.
There’s also still a lot to prove for Holliday and The Herd. To prove last year’s game wasn’t just a fluke and Marshall didn’t just get lucky and nearly pull off an upset. To prove his team isn’t just that little school to the south that doesn’t deserve to be on the same field.
A win over WVU at Milan Puskar Stadium, during Holgorsen’s much anticipated debut would certainly put a smile on Holliday’s face. Sending 60,000 fans clad in gold and blue home angry and dejected would likely make him sleep well that night.
I can’t help but think, though, a win over his old boss would have made the victory just a little sweeter. However, if Marshall pulls off the ultimate upset this year, I don’t think you’ll hear Holliday complain.
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