Herd facing marquee coaches back-to-back

October 26, 2017

When is the last time Marshall faced former NFL head coaches in back-to-back football games?


Probably not.

Yet, that will be the case during the next eight days.

The Herd will host Butch Davis’ FIU Panthers at 2:30 p.m. Saturday in Edwards Stadium. Then, Marshall will battle Lane Kiffin’s Florida Atlantic squad at 6 p.m. Nov. 3, in Boca Raton, Florida.

Talk about taking on high-profile coaches.

Davis and Kiffin are the “Glory Guys” among Conference USA coaches. They made national headlines 29 days apart last autumn, as both signed lucrative contracts with the pair of South Florida schools.

Davis, who was the Cleveland Browns’ head coach in 2001-2004, signed a five-year pact with FIU worth $1 million annually. Then, Kiffin, who was the Oakland Raiders head coach in 2007-08, signed a fiveyear contract worth $4.75 million.

And, yes, both immediately turned around their football programs.

FIU is 4-2 heading into its game at Marshall after posting a 4-8 record in 2016. Florida Atlantic is 4-3 and tied with Marshall for first place in the C-USA East Division standings with 3-0 records. The Owls were 3-9 last season.

So, what is it like knowing that guys with such well-known coaching pedigrees will be on the opposing sidelines? Is it fun to face them?

“Um, I don’t know if it adds any fun,” said Ryan Yurachek, senior tight end. “But it’s obviously cool to play a coach that I knew his name when I was growing up. I grew up hearing about Butch Davis coaching at places. And I grew up hearing about Lane Kiffin.

“Those are bigger names in college football. Not that we don’t have great coaches around this conference, but anytime you get a big name. ... I don’t know if it makes it more fun, but you are obviously aware of who you are playing on the other side, for sure.”

It’s particularly interesting having the 66-year-old Davis on the Edwards Stadium sideline.

“It’s cool having Butch Davis here,” said Yurachek. “Anytime you play a big-time coach or a guy who is wellknown and has a great reputation in football, it’s fun and it’s something we look forward to.”

Marshall players from South Florida can identify with Davis, in particular, since he was the Miami defensive line coach when the Hurricanes won the 1987 national championship. Then, Davis returned as Miami’s head coach in 1995-2000.

“It does add a little fun,” said defensive end Marquis Couch, who is a Miami native. “We’ll go into the game with the mind set that we’ve got to show these people what we’re really about this year. So, that’s just the fun of it all. This will make it even more fun.

“When you against some big-time coaches, then you know you’re going to be going against their ideas and their offenses. We’ll see what they’ve got and try to stop it. That’s the best part about it.”

Artis Johnson simply calls it a “pleasure.”

“It’s always good to go out and compete against good coaches,” said the junior linebacker. “And, us being who we are, going out there and competing against them is a pleasure. I feel like we like a matchup against teams like that.

“I feel like we have a pretty good coaching staff as well as a good head coach.”

Davis and Kiffin, back-to-back.

How much fun is that?

Chuck Landon is a sports columnist for The Herald-Dispatch. Contact him at clandon@herald-dispatch.com.

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