WVU rides Garrison's monster day to crush Bowling Green 55-10
The way it looks now, the Big East is coming down to West Virginia and nine chumps playing for second.
After a particularly hideous weekend for the conference (Louisville losing at home to Huntington Community College; lame-duck member Pitt blowing out then-ranked and unbeaten South Florida; and Connecticut losing at home to Western Michigan), WVU avoided any post-LSU letdown to blow out Bowling Green 55-10 Saturday.
The win vaulted the 4-1 Mountaineers six spots to No. 16 in the just-for-looks AP poll and up to No. 19 in the USA Today poll.
The victory comes as more conference realignment posturing swirls in the wind. The latest has the Mountaineers possibly going to the Big 12 (if Missouri leaves), or staying put (for any number of reasons), or still landing in the SEC (for any number of reasons). But this madness has more moving parts than can be counted, so I will avoid an aneurism by not listing all the variables here.
It can all be summed up as tidily as completely unfounded media reports can be in this article from the Charleston Daily Mail. Go ahead. I'll wait.
Conference conjecture aside, West Virginia continued to boost its national profile by not letting down against the Mid-American Conference's top team, despite falling behind 10-3 in the first quarter.
“I just told (the team), don't ever take a victory for granted,” coach Dana Holgorsen said in this Charleston Gazette article. “Bouncing back from last week's disappointing loss, we were able to commit and get the win. One thing that made me happy was we played very smart. We got a week better.”
Freshman running back Dustin Garrison keyed the offensive explosion as the Mountaineers finally produced a long-awaited running game.
Garrison, he of just three carries in the team's first three games, jumped to the next level after some mild success against LSU, racking up 291 yards and two touchdowns in a performance for the record books. The frosh rusher tied state native Kerry Marbury for the second-most rushing yards in a game in school history, trailing on Kay-jay Harris' 337 yards against East Carolina.
The feat is made even more impressive considering Garrison's 291 yards nearly matches the 306 yards WVU had rushed for in its first four games combined. Shawne Alston also carved out a niche as a change of pace and short-yardage back, adding two rushing scores.
The 55 points came as a result of a season-high 643 total yards, just 31 yards short of the school's all-time record of 674 (vs. Washington & Lee way back in 1923).
It seems certain that we'll be discussing which newest record has been set with this offense, but it's all still coming together according to WVU's first-year coach.
"It's a work in progress," Holgorsen told MSNsportsnet.com of his offense in this article. "A lot of people get aggravated with me saying that, a lot of people want instant results, but the reality of it is it takes snaps to be good at it."
Geno Smith managed three scores despite not being as sharp, completing 18 of his 30 passes. He had no interceptions, though, and simply needed to manage the game while Garrison took full advantage of the huge holes opened by the offensive line.
Stedman Bailey led the receiving corps with 112 yards on four catches, while Ivan McCartney added 5 catches for 54 yards and a score. All told, eight different receivers caught passes, including Tavon Austin's 4 catches for 57 yards and Ryan Nehlen's first career TD reception.
On the other side of the ball, WVU was even more efficient and aggressive, forcing five Falcon turnovers and turning them into 24 points. That total - three interceptions and two fumbles - could have been even uglier, as BG recovered three of its five fumbles and the Mountaineer secondary dropped at least two interceptions. WVU had forced no turnovers in three of its first four games.
Cornerback Keith Tandy, who led the Big East in interceptions last season, picked off his first two passes of the season. Still, Holgs couldn't resist giving the senior a little jab after the game.
"It should have been three,'' he said in the previously-linked Gazette article. "But it was probably a matter of time for him.''
Cornerback Keith Tandy enjoyed a monster game against an overwhelmed Bowling Green offensive unit.
The Falcons' Schilz came in as the nation's No. 15 QB in passing yards, averaging 292 yards per game. He came up well short of that against the Mountaineers, gaining just 114 yards on 13-of-25 passing, while throwing three picks and losing a fumble. He was also sacked twice.
"I think the weather helped us a little bit [in creating turnovers],'' defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel said in this Gazette article, referring to the 40-degree temperature and constant rain. "But if you look really close, I think we missed a few others.''
The Mountaineers still haven't put together a complete game from all three phases of the game, as special teams play continues to be a drain on this team's efforts. Though it wasn't as costly as the LSU game, the kickoff return unit gave up 258 total yards, which is more than the Falcons managed on offense. That included a 77-yard return that set up a touchdown to give Bowling Green a 10-3 lead early on.
Corey Smith continues to underwhelm as the punter, shanking his only kick for 14 yards. It's possible that Smith may have seen his last time as the starting punter for the Mountaineers, as Holgorsen had previously intimated that another bad performance like that against LSU would lead the coaching staff to look elsewhere.
Fortunately, the other two units were able to cover up the stench, using turnovers to rip off 52 unanswered points to win going away. A bright spot for the future also emerged in the blowout, as backup Paul Millard engineered a six-play, 84-yard drive, capped by Alston's second score to close the scoreboard output for the day.
West Virginia opens Big East play Saturday at home against UConn (2-3), which is coming off the aforementioned home loss to a Directional Michigan from the MAC. The Huskies gave up nearly 500 yards passing in that loss, a fact that's likely not to be overlooked by Holgorsen and Smith.
UConn's only two wins are just as unimpressive, coming against Fordham and Buffalo.
Connecticut beat West Virginia last year in overtime, a 16-13 loss that eventually kept WVU out of the BCS and helped place Bill Stewart on the rail that led him out of town in favor of Holgorsen.
The game kicks at 12 p.m. and will air on the Big East Network.
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