HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — As Marshall prepares for perhaps its most important game of the season Friday against Louisiana Tech, Thundering Herd head coach Doc Holliday has much more on his mind than facing the lone remaining unbeaten team in Conference USA play.
Thursday marks the 49th anniversary of the Nov. 14, 1970, plane crash that claimed the lives of 75 people, including the Marshall football team, coaches and staff, community members and flight crew.
As is tradition, a memorial service will be held Thursday at Marshall’s Memorial Fountain on the Student Center plaza, at which time the water in the fountain is shut off. The water remains off until spring.
“We have the fountain ceremony on Thursday and we have a lot of great speakers that come here. We put the 75 on our helmets and put black jerseys on for the one time a year,” Holliday said Tuesday as a guest on MetroNews Talkline. “We invite all the ex players to come out and take the field with us at the beginning of the game. It’s a special game, a special story and our kids embrace it.”
Although the tragic plane crash following a game at East Carolina occurred nearly five decades ago, Holliday makes sure those in the program are fully aware of the importance of the events leading up to the game.
“The first thing we do when they get on campus that first week of June is run out to the cemetery. Keith Morehouse, who lost family in the crash, tells them the story to make sure the players understand how important this football team is to the fan base, school, community and state,” Holliday said. “We do a lot of things throughout the year to make sure they understand how important this football program is to the community.”
Friday’s contest kicks off at 7 p.m., and will be aired on CBS Sports Network.
It will also mark the end of a win streak for one team.
Since falling to Texas in its season opener, Louisiana Tech (8-1, 5-0) has won eight straight games. Should the Bulldogs win this week, they could crack the Top 25 in both polls as well as take a big step toward securing homefield for the Conference USA championship game Dec. 7.
“They have good players,” Holliday said of the Bulldogs, who are coached by Skip Holtz. “It’s a personnel-driven game. They have 13 seniors starting and a quarterback (J’Mar Smith) who has played a lot of football. There are a lot of good players in Louisiana. I’ve played Louisiana Tech a number of years and they’ve always had talented players.”
Marshall (6-3, 4-1) is on a four-game win streak, which includes wins over Florida Atlantic and Western Kentucky. FAU (7-3, 5-1) currently has a half-game lead on the Herd in C-USA’s East Division, but Marshall controls its destiny thanks to the head-to-head result.
The Herd have relied on a dominant rushing attack keyed by tailback Brenden Knox and strong defensive play.
Marshall has allowed 30 total points in its last two games and 78 during its current win streak.
“Anytime we’ve taken care of the football, we’ve won the game,” Holliday said. “It starts with playing great defense and when we get it in the red zone, we have to score points. Then, somehow we have to find a way to dominate special teams.”