By GARY FAUBER
There are things that drive Marshall coach Doc Holliday absolutely nuts, and one of them is what has plagued his team’s defense this season.
The Thundering Herd has had a slew of them this season — Holliday estimated the defense had an entire game’s quota of whiffs in the first quarter alone against West Virginia.
Much of this, a bye week, will be devoted to trying to shore up a defensive unit that could stand to shave a few numbers off its Conference USA-worst 44.5 points allowed per game. Of course, it’s not easy when you have as many players restricted in practice because of injuries.
“You have to go out, be physical and do some live tackling,” Holliday said. “When you’re standing out there in red jerseys tagging off all the time you can’t get better at tackling. If you are out in the red jersey and you can’t work on tackling, fundamentals and techniques, then you will regress as a player. That’s why it’s so important that we get these guys back this week and move ahead.”
Marshall’s players were given Sunday and Monday off before returning Tuesday. Holliday said practice this week will have a “physical” tone, but some of the focus will be on getting players healthy in time for next week.
“We have a lot of guys out there playing, but didn’t practice (during the week),” Holliday said. “You look out there during the week and there are a lot of red jerseys. Those guys aren’t tackling and doing things you have to do to become better football players. We have to be smart as coaches this week so when we line up on Sunday and start that week of game preparation, those guys are able to tackle and go do the things we have to do to become a better team.”
Holliday has said he still believes defense wins championships, even in this day of offensive explosion. He also said Marshall (2-4, 1-1) has a lot of work to be done.
“I’ve talked all along that our defense is nowhere near where we want it to be,” Holliday said. “I think some guys have become better. We have to continue this week and next week to build on the progress that our players have made. We have to go out there every day and get better. Are we there yet? No. But we have to continue to work hard to get there.”