Third year of Holliday season for Marshall

After beating Florida International in last year’s Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Bowl, Marshall might just have a little momentum moving into John “Doc” Holliday’s third season in Huntington.

[cleeng_content id="742585818" description="Read it now!" price="0.15"]Holliday’s two-year record is 12-13 overall and he has taken the Thundering Herd to one bowl game.

Another Friends of Coal Bowl meeting with West Virginia is the season opener. It was in 2006 that the only two NCAA Division I schools in the state began the Friends of Coal series. Political pressure to both camps was applied by then-governor Joe Manchin. And the game on a yearly basis became a reality.

Joan C. Edwards Stadium in Huntington.

Marshall hadn’t beaten West Virginia in the few games played through history before Manchin set the current series in motion. And Marshall still hasn’t beaten the Mountainers. The six consecutive losses in the Friends of Coal series gives Marshall an 0-11 all-games record to take back to Morgantown for this September’s season opener for both sides.

Marshall came close two years ago in Bill Stewart’s last season on the WVU sidelines. Facing a 21-6 deficit with only 8:28 remaining in the last period, the Mountaineers and quarterback Geno Smith peeled off drives of 96 and 98 yards to take the verdict to an overtime.

A successful field goal by West Virginia and a missed 39-yard field goal attempt by the Herd made the Mountaineers a 24-21 winner. It could have been a pyrrhic victory for Stewart because he was told he could coach again in 2011 and then would be replaced by Dana Holgorsen beginning in 2012. Stewart’s off-field actions found him being replaced altogether even before the 2011 season would begin.

Holgorsen presided over another West Virginia win over Marshall, giving him a 1-0 record in his short dealings with the Herd.

After the Marshall vs. WVU game is settled, Holliday and company can turn their attention to another rivalry game, the one against Ohio. In the most recent 15 games between the schools, Marshall has won more often than it has lost. The Battle for the Bell trophy goes to the winning team.

When Marshall joined Conference-USA in 2005, the regular-season series was silenced. However, Marshall defeated the Bobcats in the 2009 Little Caesar’s Bowl and the series was renewed beginning in 2010.

Ohio drilled the Thundering Herd, 44-7, last season.

East Carolina and Marshall are now members of the same conference. It was back in the 2001 GMAC Bowl when the Pirates had a 30-point lead and saw the Thundering Herd do enough late-game scoring to take the decision to double overtime.

Marshall won the record-setting offensive show, 64-61, and the combined 125 points made for a bowl record that has lasted.

One of Marshall’s wins in 2011 came against the Pirates in Huntington when the Herd offense did enough to prevail, 34-27.

Holliday’s two teams haven’t made them forget the proud football years in Huntington that lasted from 1986 through 2004.

George Chaump was 33-16-1 from 1986 through 1989 before being hired to coach the Naval Academy in Annapolis. Jim Donnan was 64-21 from 1990 through 1995 and had a national championship before going to Athens Town to coach the Georgia Bulldogs. And Bob Pruett came along with his 94-23 record and another national championship before moving to retirement. Pruett coached from 1996 through 2004.

Holliday has been more successful than Sonny Randle (12-42-1 in five seasons) and the man he replaced, Mark Snyder (22-37 in his five seasons from 2005 through 2009).

But Marshall still has unfaded memories of the glory years when Pruett and Donnan did Marshall’s bidding on the national stage.

The university can point to its “Marching Thunder” band and its “Sons of Marshall” fight song, but the alumni want a scalp of some kind from a win over WVU.

The “Marshall Maniacs” student section at home games make their noise. But how much of a racket would they raise if West Virginia were beaten and the next game were at home at Joan Edwards Stadium against Ohio? The “Thunder Walk” the players make to the dressing room before home games would probably have twice as many well-wishers than it does now.

Firends of Coal. The Battle for the Bell. Beat West Virginia? And follow that with a win over nearby Ohio? It would be “Holliday Season” along the banks of the Ohio River on the campus of Marshall University.[/cleeng_content]

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