HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - Marshall University football coach Doc Holliday seeks his first 2-0 start in Conference USA today when his Thundering Herd visit what will be familiar territory for several dozen of his team members.
In the first of two trips to the state of Florida this season, the Herd meet Florida Atlantic for a 5:05 p.m. kickoff at FAU Stadium in Boca Raton, Fla.
With 34 players native to the Sunshine State, Marshall coach Doc Holliday has made special arrangements for family time.
"The players going home is going to be a bit of an issue for us, but we have a two-hour window set aside that they can come and see their families on (Friday)," Holliday said. "After that, it is all business and football. I can't take those kids to Florida and not allow them to see their families. They haven't been able to see mom and dad in a long time.
"We have a few guys that mom and dad have never seen them play a game. It will be a first time for some of them and this will be a great opportunity for the players to get to see their families the right way."
Marshall enters the contest at 3-2 and 1-0 in C-USA. The last time the Herd opened the conference unbeaten at 2-0 occurred in 2008. That same season resulted in a 4-8 overall finish as Marshall lost seven of their final eight games.
This year's version snapped a two-game losing streak by defeating Texas-San Antonio 34-10 last week in Huntington. Four different Marshall players scored in the victory. Quarterback Rakeem Cato completed 22-of-32 passes for 279 yards and two touchdowns.
"Offensively, it starts with the quarterback," FAU coach Carl Pelini said. "But they've got good skill guys all around and they've got an experienced offensive line. They are big.
"Defensively, they are a good football team. They are physical up front and they have skill guys in the back end who cover you. They have good team speed."
One key component who will be absent from the Marshall defense is lineman Jeremiah Taylor. On the opposite side of the ball, the Herd will be without the services of offensive lineman Jordan Jeffries.
"Jordan Jeffries' career is over," Holliday said. "He has a hip that doctors told him every time he steps on the field it will affect the quality of his life down the road.
"He's made that decision and he made the right decision."
FAU (2-4, 1-3) also buried a two-game losing streak last week after winning at UAB, 37-23. Quarterback Jaquez Johnson was named C-USA player of the week after accounting for three touchdowns and 404 of the team's 579 yards of total offense.
Johnson completed 23-of-36 passes for 299 yards and two touchdowns, and rushed for a career-high 105 yards and one score.
"Seems like every week we have the same conversation - first it was Tyler Tettleton then it was Logan Thomas and Eric Soza," Holliday said. "It's every week. Someone asked me if I think the dual threat quarterback is becoming the new thing and it looks like it may be.
"We have to face it again this week. It will help us that we've played a lot of this style of quarterbacks. I told the team the other day that the reason we were so good against UTSA last week is because the scout team prepared us for those two weeks really well."