Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - Doc Holliday has seen this maroon-and-orange show before. Many, many times.How many? Let's count 'em up.Start with every year Holliday was a player, graduate assistant and assistant coach at West Virginia - 1976 through 1999. Add in a 2004 game when Holliday was at North Carolina State and the Hokies entered the Atlantic Coast Conference.That's 25 in total. If you're curious, Holliday's teams won 12 and lost 13, and were 5-9 in the Frank Beamer era.That's more than enough to tell the fourth-year Marshall coach what he needs to know about the Hokies. Oh, he and his staff are studying video and taking notes on the various Hokies, but there are no real secrets."If you look at them over the years, and I've probably played them 20-plus times, it always starts with their defense," Holliday said. "And they're extremely good this year, I think they're second in the country in total defense. Alabama or nobody [else] has moved the ball very successfully against them. It will be a great challenge for us."You look at them offensively, it starts with [quarterback] Logan Thomas. Many people thought if he came out a year ago, he was a top-four pick in the draft. They've got a freshman tailback, Trey Edmunds, his dad was a great player in the NFL. They've got good players.
"Of course, Coach Beamer has been known for his special teams. That will be a challenge for us, too."The Thundering Herd faces all those challenges and more when it enters the always-loud Lane Stadium in Blacksburg, Va. Game time is noon, with ESPNU televising.Some of that "more" refers to turnovers, which pretty much decided the Thundering Herd's 34-31 loss last week at Ohio. And if you think those giveaways were poisonous last week, think of what Virginia Tech can do with a loose ball on the carpet.Well, there's no thinking about it. The Virginia Tech people are more than happy to itemize the Hokies' non-offensive touchdowns since 1987 - 83 by defense and 49 by special teams. Against WVU and Marshall combined, there have been five by Virginia Tech special teams and four by the defense.
That stroll down memory lane on the defensive TDs:1995: Cornerback Larry Green, 37-yard interception return vs. WVU.2001: Defensive end Jim Davis, 27-yard interception return vs. WVU.2003: Cornerback Vincent Fuller, 50-yard fumble return vs. WVU.
2005: Inside linebacker Vince Hall, 15-yard fumble return vs. Marshall. He plucked the ball out of midair after MU quarterback Bernard Morris had the ball slapped away.
Last week at Ohio, Marshall fumbled on its first two possessions and botched a kickoff which the Bobcats recovered in the end zone. In the second half, when the offense finally had a chance to drive for a tying touchdown, Rakeem Cato threw an interception when receiver Demetrius Evans slipped on a timing route.That is no small part of the Herd's emphasis this week, right up there with blocking a deep and very quick front four, trying to get open against a fast, well-coached secondary and dealing with talented linebackers in between.Failure to hang on to the ball will get the Herd whipped this week, and Holliday knows it."That's something we [work on] every day and it's not going to change," he said. "The skill players are always working on ball security and good players will come back and respond and not let it happen again. That's what good players do. Those kids are good players and I expect them to be better this week."Reach Doug Smock at 304-348-5140, firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him at twitter.com/dougsmock.