Business as usual for Marshall
HUNTINGTON — “We just go.”
That was Marshall University head football coach Doc Holliday’s response when asked how his team is dealing with the uncertainty of Saturday’s 7:30 p.m. matchup at South Carolina.
With Hurricane Florence bearing down on the East Coast and expected to make landfall Thursday in the Carolinas, Holliday is getting his team prepared to face the Gamecocks, who were ranked in the Top 25 before last week’s loss to No. 3 Georgia.
It’s a tough setup for the Thundering Herd (2-0), one filled with the emotions of uncertainty about whether the game will be played, anxiety about the potential damaging storms and excitement about the prospects of playing a Southeastern Conference opponent.
That type of emotional gamut is tough for anyone to play through, but Holliday said the Herd needs to be laser-focused in its preparation and is approaching it as a normal Saturday contest.
“As far as we’re concerned, we’re playing,” Holliday said at his weekly press conference. “Today will be a normal Tuesday (practice). Until they tell us otherwise, we just go full speed ahead and go. Right now, we’re going as is, as we’re playing.”
Marshall Athletic Director Mike Hamrick said early Tuesday that he was still in communication with South Carolina Athletic Director Ray Tanner and that he was “cautiously optimistic” that the game would go on as scheduled at Williams-Brice Stadium in Columbia, South Carolina.
West Virginia University’s game Saturday at N.C. State in Raleigh, North
Carolina, was canceled Tuesday. As other games in the Carolinas were seeing major changes in their schedules, officials with Marshall and South Carolina remained positive that the game can go on as planned.
Hamrick addressed logistical issues with travel, saying that the team might bus to Columbia on Friday morning if it appears their Friday afternoon flight is unable to land in Columbia.
While Hamrick is taking care of the logistical side, Holliday is much more concerned with the on-field product, which features a talented South Carolina (1-1) team filled with high-caliber athletes at all positions.
“It will be a great challenge for us,” Holliday said. “Any time you get a team from the SEC that wins nine games and wins their bowl game, they’ve got good players. This team is no different. (Jake) Bentley, the quarterback, is a three-year starter now and he’s tremendous. (Deebo) Samuel, some people think he’s one of the top receivers in the league. They’ve got a good player at about every position, so we’re excited about it and the kids are looking forward to it.”
Marshall linebacker Chase Hancock, who was announced as one of this week’s team captains, said that there is plenty of outside noise surrounding the game, but the Herd players must take care of what they can control, which is effort in practice and having a good week of preparation.
“We’ve just got to tune all that out,” Hancock said. “We can’t control the weather, so we’ve got to come ready to play, whether it rains or it doesn’t. Our main focus is on fixing the mistakes from last week and trying to get better. There’s nothing we can do about the weather, so we’ve just got to go to work.”
Holliday said the team prepares for the elements each week. Weekly Wednesday practices feature wet footballs to get players acclimated to that type of environment and last week’s win over Eastern Kentucky was played in a steady rain throughout some of the second half, meaning the Herd got experience in the elements.
“We had somewhat wet (footballs) there Saturday night, so that may help a little bit, but we’ll do that (wet ball drills) again on Wednesday, as we always do,” Holliday said.
MARSHALL (2-0) AT SOUTH CAROLINA (1-1)
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Saturday
WHERE: Williams-Brice Stadium, Columbia, S.C.
RADIO: WDGG 93.7-FM, ESPN 94.1-FM and 930-AM