WVU beats down Herd in storm-shortened mercy cancellation
In breaking news from a reliable source (or possibly my buddy Justin’s Facebook page), it has been confirmed that the heaviest hitter of all has weighed in on the future of the West Virginia – Marshall football series.
After the events of Saturday’s preseason scrimmage, it seems the Lord himself does not believe the Coal Bowl should continue. Sending torrential downpours, plenty of lighting, and lengthy delays to torture ESPN for airing the debacle, it’s pretty clear this series should end abruptly rather than risking incurring further wrath from the Almighty.
In fairness, WVU never wanted this blasphemous series, and their 34-13 victory made the Mountaineers 11-0 all-time in the alleged rivalry. The Mountaineers begin the regular season in earnest Saturday when they host Norfolk State (1-0).
WVU moved up in the formerly important but currently meaningless AP poll, clocking in five spots higher than the opening poll at No. 19. The Mountaineers cracked the USA Today Coaches Poll for the first time as well, checking in at No. 24.
Weather shortened the first game of Coach Dana Holgorsen's career, which followed the first ever Mountaineer Mantrip.
New head coach Dana Holgorsen termed his debut in the Coal Bowl an “unusual win” and said he had plenty to build on with a short week made shorter before Game Two.
"Marshall played with a lot of energy and a lot of effort. This is a big game for them,'' Holgorsen said in this Charleston Gazette article, clearly displaying WVU’s attitude toward the unholy series. "We knew we were going to get their best and they gave us their best. And we matched that.
"Yeah, some things broke down, but I think that had more to do with what the scheme was and us trying to figure it out. Some of that first-game stuff where you don't know what to expect, they did things schematically that we didn't know that they were going to do.
“Sometimes it takes four quarters to figure some of that stuff out. And I really felt like if we'd had another quarter, then offensively we would have continued to do things a little more positive.''
The offensive line is first and foremost on that list according to the first-year coach. Though he defended the much-maligned unit immediately after the game, he did say this week’s prep will include plenty of work in the trenches during Monday’s teleconference.
“One is being targeted right and being in your position for certain plays, which is coaching, and the other thing is getting these guys to give effort and wanting to do it,” Holgorsen said. “It was very subpar, and we’ll get it corrected this week.”
He continued, “Probably the biggest disappointment I had offensively was the blocking. When you think about blocking, all you think about is the offensive line. That’s not necessarily the truth.
“Some of the running game problems were the running backs not blocking for the other backs. Some of the running game problems were inside receivers not blocking for running backs. The others’ blocking was just as bad as the offensive line’s blocking. The name of the game offensively is blocks. We have to do a better job with that.”
A noticeably thinner tailback corps will hopefully benefit from the improved running room. After the Coal Bowl, WVU reported Monday that tailback Andrew Buie would be re-evaluated this week after leaving the game with an arm injury. Reports indicated the injury was not related to his collarbone and Holgersen seemed to think he would be ready for another go-round Saturday.
Backup Trey Johnson missed the game with a leg injury and is likewise being watched. Shawne Alston also missed time with a neck injury, though he will be moved into a green jersey during practice this week. When pressed, Holgersen said he didn’t really know what that meant, though it’s presumably not bad.
Dustin Garrison will add to the backfield this week, though he, like Buie, couldn’t get much going against the Herd.
But not all was bad (though the running and blocking clearly were). Geno Smith and the passing game were as good as advertised. The second-year starter looked poised and repeatedly made something out of nothing by running from the pocket and finding an open receiver. Smith completed 26 of 35 passing for 249 yards and two touchdowns,
The wide receivers showed plenty of promise, and Tavon Austin, though having what he termed a disappointing performance overall, showed his explosiveness with a 100-yard punt return TD.
See ya, suckas.
“We had about eight drives where we scored on five of them,” Holgorsen said on his teleconference. “The only thing I was disappointed in offensively was not converting on a fourth-and-short (which led to a Herd field goal). We moved the ball well. We had zero turnovers, made 50 percent (7 of 14) third downs and (quarterback) Geno (Smith) made some good plays.”
In a game where the offense didn’t show up with the fireworks expected, defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel’s unit was very impressive for a unit replacing seven starters from last year’s No. 3-ranked crew.
The defense held the Herd to 187 yards of total offense, including 72 rushing and just nine first downs. Marshall was 3 of 11 on third down conversions and had no offensive touchdowns.
“They played well,” Holgorsen said in this Register-Herald article. “They had (three) three-and-outs. It was a very solid defensive performance. I’m proud of Jeff and those guys. “We had some guys who stepped up and played well. I’m proud of them.”
Austin was named the Big East’s special teams player of the week, the conference announced Monday. He totaled 190 yards of total offense.
Smith was named to the Big East honor roll.
The Mountaineers kick off with Norfolk State Saturday in Morgantown at 1 p.m.
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