Doc Holliday was officially named the new head coach of the Marshall Thundering Herd football team on December 17, 2009, and heading into his 10th season at the helm of the Herd in 2019, Holliday has amassed a lot of success in Huntington, West Virginia.
Holliday carved out an impressive legacy as an assistant coach and recruiter for decades prior to getting his first head coaching job at Marshall, and much of that success has carried over to Marshall where the Herd has been one of the most consistent Group of Five programs in the country over the past few years.
Through his first nine seasons as head coach of the Herd, Holliday has a 70-46 record with two C-USA East Division Championships, one C-USA Championship, and a 6-0 record in bowl games. Holliday is second all-time in program history in terms of overall wins and is only 25 wins away from passing Bob Pruett’s record of 94 career wins at Marshall.
Marshall has had an overall successful run under Holliday, but what are the biggest wins of the Doc Holliday era of Marshall football? Here are the five best with a few notable mentions.
Ohio: September 25, 2010 (W, 24-23)
Southern Miss: September 10, 2011 (W, 26-20)
Florida International: 2011 Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Bowl (W, 20-10)
Northern Illinois: 2014 Boca Raton Bowl (W, 52-23)
Western Kentucky: November 11, 2017 (W, 30-23)
5. Purdue: September 6, 2015 (W, 41-31)
History was made for Marshall to open up the 2015 season when, for the first time in program history, a Big Ten conference opponent would play the Herd in Huntington when the Purdue Boilermakers came to town. This game had a lot of hype as a Sunday afternoon, nationally televised home game against a Power Five opponent in front of a sold-out crowd of 38,791 fans at Joan C. Edwards Stadium.
Purdue held a 21-17 halftime lead before the Herd captured the lead back early in the third quarter. However, the Boilermakers held a 31-27 late in the fourth quarter before a go-ahead touchdown by Devon Johnson, followed by Tiquan Lang’s second pick-six of the game on Purdue’s next possession, secured the thrilling 41-31 win for the Herd in the final couple of minutes.
This wasn’t a big win because of how good the opponent was given that Purdue finished that season at 2-10 overall, but it was a big moment for the Marshall football program, resulting in only the third Power Five win of the Doc Holliday era and first Big Ten win in Marshall history in the midst of a 10-3 overall, bowl game winning season for the Herd.
4. Louisville: October 1, 2011 (W, 17-13)
Year one of the Doc Holliday era of Marshall football wasn’t what anybody hoped for as the team finished 5-7 overall. And in the early stages of the 2011 season in year two under Holliday, things weren’t looking much better.
The Herd was 1-3 heading into a road game at the Big East’s Louisville Cardinals in desperate need of a season-changing win to avoid an almost insurmountable 1-4 start. It wasn’t always pretty, but Marshall kept it close throughout and after a late touchdown with 1:49 remaining, the Herd led 17-13. And after a final interception defensively, Marshall was able to close out the 17-13 win over Louisville.
Lousiville finished the 2011 season at 7-6 overall with a co-Big East Championship, so this turned out to be a much bigger win than it originally looked and it helped salvage the 2011 season for the Herd in which Holliday’s squad finished 7-6 with his first bowl game victory as head coach of Marshall.
3. Maryland: 2013 Military Bowl (W, 31-20)
The 2013 season for the Herd was the breakthrough season fans had been anticipating for a decade. Although Marshall came up short in winning the C-USA Championship, it still headed into postseason play with a big opportunity.
The Herd played in the Military Bowl in Annapolis, Maryland against the ACC’s Maryland Terrapins in what was Maryland’s last game as a football member of the ACC. Marshall held a narrow lead throughout the game, but the Terps took a 20-17 lead early in the fourth before the Herd closed out the game with two clinching touchdowns to walk away with an impressive 31-20 win.
This wrapped up a 10-4 season for Marshall, the program’s first 10-win season since 2002, and marks the only time in program history the Herd knocked off a then-current Power Five team in a bowl game in a 7-6 Maryland team that could be argued as the best Power Five win Marshall has had under Holliday.
2. East Carolina: November 29, 2013 (W, 59-28)
It had been over a decade since Marshall had a more meaningful home game at the end of the season with championship implications. But that’s exactly what the scenario looked like for the Herd heading into its 2013 regular-season finale showdown with the East Carolina Pirates.
The winner of this game would win C-USA’s East Division and advance to the C-USA Championship game, so the stakes were high. Marshall went out and made a big statement by controlling a very good ECU team from start to finish. A 14-point halftime lead grew to as much as a 39-point lead at one point in the fourth quarter before Marshall closed out an impressive 59-28 win.
This was a win over an ECU team that finished the season at 10-3 overall with a bowl game win and two Power Five wins, a win that secured Marshall’s first C-USA East Division Championship, and a win that brought the program back to a championship level for the first time in over a decade.
1. Louisiana Tech: 2014 C-USA Championship (W, 26-23)
After coming up short of winning a C-USA Championship in 2013, the 2014 season saw huge expectations for the Marshall football program. Despite losing in heartbreaking fashion in the regular-season finale, the Herd was still hosting the C-USA Championship game for the first time ever the following week.
The Herd hosted the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs for the right to be called C-USA’s best in 2014, but it didn’t go smoothly for Marshall. Turnovers and sloppiness plagued the Herd, but LA Tech’s lead was only 23-19 late in the fourth quarter when a go-ahead touchdown pass followed by a game-sealing interception cemented Marshall’s 26-23 win over the Bulldogs.
Fans had waited since 2002 for a conference championship, so seeing the Herd win its first C-USA Championship over a 9-5 LA Tech team in a season in which Marshall finished 13-1 overall with a bowl game win and top 25 final national ranking was a long-time coming.