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Doc focuses on first four

MU football
Aug. 01, 2013 @ 12:36 AM

HUNTINGTON -- As Marshall University head football coach Doc Holliday looks over the 2013 Thundering Herd schedule, there aren't too many opponents he recognizes from the last few years.

When Marshall takes the field in 2013, there will only be five opponents with which the Herd has familiarity.

Given the newness of most of the foes, it would be understandable if Holliday and his staff spent much of the offseason researching teams that they will face in conference this year.

During a Monday preseason press conference, however, Holliday said that was not the case this summer. The focus instead was on the first four games of the season -- the Herd's non-conference portion of the schedule.

"No. 1, we're on Miami (Ohio), which is the first one. We spent the majority of our time there and the first four," Holliday said. "Gardner-Webb just lost their offensive coordinator (a few) days ago, so we don't know exactly what we are getting there and, of course, we spent a lot of time on Ohio and Virginia Tech. That's about as far as you go in the offseason."

While a Conference USA championship is certainly Holliday's focus heading into the season, Marshall's first four games are all non-conference contests. That allows the Herd to build momentum prior to the beginning of the conference slate.

In recent years, the non-conference schedule has featured games which put the Herd into pressure situations heading into the conference portion.

Since Holliday came to Marshall, the series with West Virginia played out its final three games and he has also seen games at Ohio State, Louisville and Purdue, among others.

In Holliday's first three years, his teams were 1-3 in each non-conference season.

That's where the 2013 season is shaping up to be different, should the Herd take care of business.

Home games against Miami (Ohio) and Gardner-Webb open the season before road trips to rival Ohio and Virginia Tech.

Marshall will be favored in each of the first two games before a pivotal Sept. 14 matchup against Ohio at Peden Stadium in Athens.

The Herd has a more-than-legitimate chance of finishing with a non-conference record above .500 for the first time since 2009 -- consequently, also a year when Marshall made a bowl game appearance.

For Holliday, the first three games will set the tone for the rest of the season when they will take on several new conference opponents, such as UTSA, Florida Atlantic and Middle Tennessee.

Holliday said those teams are certainly on the Herd's mind and radar, but the coaching staff will get a much better feel for them as the season goes along.

"You do some personnel studies and that type of thing on the other (teams), but by the time we get to UT-San Antonio, they'll be four games that we have a pretty good idea that we can draw from for this year that we'll break down," Holliday said. "By the time we play Middle (Tennessee) and by the time we play those other people we haven't played, there's going to be a pretty good book on them."

At last week's C-USA Media Day, Marshall was picked to finish second in the East Division behind East Carolina.

The Herd's season gets underway against Miami (Ohio) at 7 p.m. on Aug. 31 at Joan C. Edwards Stadium.

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