HUNTINGTON — For Marshall head coach Doc Holliday, every day is about his Thundering Herd getting better as a team.
This week, that takes on a different meaning than normal.
As Marshall utilizes the first of two bye weeks this season, the Herd is more focused on its own players than the next game, which is Sept. 28 against Cincinnati.
That includes not only the practice aspect of fine-tuning things, but also self-care, which means getting any injuries taken care of before getting back into game-week mode on Monday.
“Anytime you go into an open date, I think it’s important that you work on yourself as far as getting better as a football team,” Holliday said. “That’s what we’re doing in a couple of ways. No. 1, we want to work to get healthy. We’ve got a couple guys who are banged up a little bit, and I think this week can give us an opportunity to get some guys back and get feeling better about themselves, and we’ve got to work to get better as a football team in all three phases.”
At the forefront of that injury list is running back Brenden Knox, who rushed for 133 yards and a touchdown on Saturday despite not playing in the second half of the 33-31 win over Ohio.
Following the game, Holliday said there was an injury issue with Knox that kept him out of the second half. Even though he didn’t get into specifics during Tuesday’s press conference, the 10-year head coach alluded that the bye week might be the exact medicine needed to see Knox in action against Cincinnati.
“Those guys get the opportunity to double-up treatments,” Holliday said. “And like I said, most of those deals we’re dealing with are just a couple-day deals, so we’ll have the opportunity to get a lot of those guys back.”
Marshall’s players got Monday and Tuesday off to get away from the Shewey Building and Joan C. Edwards Stadium for a few days, which Holliday said was important.
On the surface, it seems as if the bye week is coming at an early time — just three weeks in — but, in reality, the players and coaches have been consistently at it with few days off for nearly eight weeks since camp opened at the first of August.
“Kids start getting beat down a little bit,” Holliday said. “With the number of reps and all that, they are more prone to injury, so I think having the opportunity to get refreshed and give them a couple of days off, that helps.”
The players’ reaction to having two days in a row to themselves was priceless.
“Ohhh,” Marshall tight end Xavier Gaines said as his eyes got big and a smile came across his face. “Probably in June or something like that, you know what I mean? In summer workouts, but probably not even then. It’s a year-round thing with Doc and with football, period. We’ve got to stay on the ground and keep working. I don’t remember the last time we had two days off, though. It feels good, to be honest. We get a little bit of a break.”
Gaines also joked that while he and his fellow teammates got a few days to themselves, he doesn’t expect that Holliday did the same.
“I mean, you know he’s never away,” Gaines said. “He’s probably in there watching film right now with the offensive staff or defensive staff. This is what he does. He loves football. This is what he does. That’s Doc. I don’t think he really gets away from football.”
On cue, Holliday added Tuesday that he and the coaching staff are going over film this week to self-scout the first three weeks of the season.
“Basically, your own tendencies — what are we doing on third down, what are we doing to our opponents defensively on third down, what the normal-down calls, special teams — where are we giving things away with alignments — that type of thing,” Holliday said. “Just go over our entire three games and find out what tendencies we have and what we can change up, as well as what other people are doing.”
Marshall returns to the field on Wednesday for practice, but likely will not get into extended prep for next week’s matchup with Cincinnati until late in the week.
That contest with the Bearcats, who are also on a bye week this week, takes place at 5 p.m. on Sept. 28 at Joan C. Edwards Stadium.