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Herd notebook: Marshall taking businesslike approach on road trip to Rice

Marshall coach Doc Holliday is fond of recalling his favorite and successful moments working under Urban Meyer at Florida, but not all his stories are roses and Tebows.

He saw, as every coach has on every level of football, tough road losses. Bad road losses, even with the Gators. Ranked as high as fifth during the 2005 season, the Gators lost to Alabama, Louisiana State and unranked South Carolina (and coach Steve Spurrier).

As the the third-year Thundering Herd coach tells it, Meyer brought in reinforcements - including a man now known as "Dr. Lou."

"We spent a solid week with Lou Holtz and a couple of coaches, and all we talked about is how you win on the road," Holliday said. "We spent hours. The one thing we came up with is you have to have great leadership. When you're a young team you worry about that a little bit.

"The other thing was toughness. You've got to be an extremely tough team, go on the road into other people's arenas and find a way to win. And the final thing was you've got to enjoy going into other people's arenas and beating people."

The trick, Holliday and a horde of coaches will say, is to treat the trip as a business trip and not be tourists. To try to keep the routine the same as it would be at home, before and after the charter flight. The walk-throughs, the Friday night sequestration and everything else are as close to a home schedule as possible.

"We don't change our preparation," Holliday said. "We do all of our preparing Friday right here, we get on our plane and get there, we've got our best Fridays in football once we get to the hotel, and then we get up in the morning and go play."

 

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    One thing will change, though: The Herd equipment crew will pack the cooling equipment. The autumnal equinox arrives Saturday morning, but summer hasn't lost its grip in Houston.

    The forecast high: 91 degrees, the National Weather Service said Thursday night. The Herd's previous game-time temperatures: 81, 68 and 74 degrees.

    Holliday, a veteran of road-trip climate swings, said the Herd won't be bothered that much.

    "I think later in the year, when you're practicing [in chilly conditions], it may affect you more than it affects you now," he said. "We've dealt with some heat the last couple of weeks."

     

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    The road wasn't kind of Rice last season, and its 24-20 loss at MU grates the Owls to this day.

    Vinny Curry's forced fumble with 3:31 left and subsequent touchdown turned what was a key play by "Kat" safety Paul Porras into an afterthought. Porras foiled a go-ahead drive by intercepting an A.J. Graham pass on the Owls' 8-yard line early in the fourth quarter.

    As Porras tries to make amends, the question nags: What in the world is the "Kat?" One way to describe it: It gives the Owls the flexibility to morph from a 4-3 to a 4-2-5 and back. For a Marshall equivalent, consider D.J. Hunter's move from safety to strong-side linebacker.

    Porras leads the Owls with 25 tackles.

    "I can come down and essentially play as an outside linebacker, play a cover-two safety," Porras said. "It allows me to make a lot of tackles in the box and also cover a lot of two man routes. I feel like a distance runner by the end of the day."

    He did run track in high school, though not distances. He finished second in an Arizona state meet in the triple jump and ran sprints from 100 meters up to the 4x400 relay.

     

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    For the first and only time this season, Marshall will play a team with fewer seniors. The Herd "beefed up" to nine with late transfers, while Rice's number has been whittled to seven.

    Safety Corey Frazier, who was second on the team with 36 games played, suffered a season-ending knee injury in the Owls' second game of the season at Kansas. Frazier can take a medical redshirt and return as a fifth-year senior.

    Rice is "ahead" of Indiana and Colorado, who have eight seniors. Marshall's nine ties it with Florida Atlantic and Colorado. 2013 Conference USA entrant Texas-San Antonio has only six seniors, but that deserves an asterisk - the Roadrunners are in their second season at any level and are playing in the FBS for the first time.

    Reach Doug Smock at 304-348-5130 or dougsmock@wvgazette.com.


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