2011 Predictions & Game Story
Week 1 - Marshall at West Virginia
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Sept. 4 at West Virginia 34 … Marshall 13
CFN Analysis: The real story might have been the weather and the rain and lightning delay, and while the offense didn't quite roll as expected with just 291 total yards, everything worked out fine. Geno Smith was as strong as expected throwing for 249 yards with two scores, but too many drives ended with field goals instead of touchdowns early on. The Mountaineers should've put the game well out of reach early on, but they were always in control. With Norfolk State up next, the O gets another game to tune up before going to Maryland and getting to deal with LSU. The running game didn't work against Marshall, and it's not going to work against LSU; this season is all about Smith.
The pass rush was able to get into the West Virginia backfield just enough to make Geno Smith feel a few shots, but the D didn't break early on holding on for field goals and only giving up one touchdown. Rakeem Cato was just fine in his debut, and while the freshman quarterback didn't push the ball down the field, and only threw for 115 yards, he didn't make any big mistakes and he kept his poise. The defense was strong against the run, holding the Mountaineers to just 1.6 yards per carry, and it should be able to carry the team for a while until the offense comes around. To beat Southern Miss, though, the offense has to figure out how to get into the end zone.
(AP) MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- Geno Smith threw two first-half touchdown passes, Tavon Austin returned a kickoff for a score and No. 24 West Virginia beat Marshall 34-13 on Sunday night in a game that was stopped early in the fourth quarter because of lightning.
Smith completed 26 of 35 passes for 249 yards. Despite difficulty running the ball, West Virginia improved to 11-0 against its cross-state foe, including six wins since the series resumed in 2006.
Marshall was limited to 13 first downs, 187 total yards and no offensive touchdowns.
The game was first halted with 5 minutes left in the third quarter due to severe storms and play didn't resume for three hours.
Play was stopped again with 14:36 left. But another hour went by before the game was called off, giving new West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen a soggy, successful debut.
The game was delayed a total of 4 hours, 22 minutes and was the latest plagued by lightning and severe storms on the first weekend of the season.
Michigan's game with Western Michigan was stopped for good late in the third quarter on Saturday. Games at Notre Dame, Iowa, and Tennessee were delayed by lightning and Eastern Michigan pushed back its home game from Saturday to Sunday.
The wide-open offenses that Holgorsen built the past three years as offensive coordinator at Oklahoma State and Houston produced average scores of 58-9 in season openers.
On Sunday, the Mountaineers had plenty of offensive plays. It just didn't equate into that many yards, especially on the ground.
Now Holgorsen has a short week to figure out how what to tweak before Saturday's home game against Norfolk State.
West Virginia freshman Andrew Buie got the start over three other running backs but was limited to a team-high 30 yards on 15 carries. He left in the third quarter after taking a hard hit, his arm dangling at his side.
On West Virginia's next series, freshman Vernard Roberts was stopped for no gain on fourth-and-1 near midfield. Marshall took over and drove inside the West Virginia 10 but settled for Tyler Warner's third field goal.
Austin extended West Virginia's lead on the ensuing kickoff, weaving 100 yards into the end zone to put the Mountaineers ahead 27-13.
After Tyler Bitancurt's extra point kick, play was stopped the first time as heavy thunderstorms moved in. Some in the sellout crowd gathered in the concourse, others went to a nearby indoor practice facility -- and a steady stream of fans got in their cars and left.
Roberts capped West Virginia's only possession after the first delay with a 1-yard score.
A pair of transfers helped out Smith on West Virginia's first two touchdown drives.
Wake Forest transfer Devon Brown's 14-yard catch and Buie's 15-yard run on a screen pass set up West Virginia's first score, a 4-yard pass from Smith to Ivan McCartney.
Duquesne transfer Willie Milhouse caught a 29-yard pass late in the second quarter to set up Smith's 15-yard TD toss to Stedman Bailey for a 17-7 lead.
Marshall freshman Rakeem Cato was poised in his debut at quarterback but couldn't get the Thundering Herd into the end zone. He went 15 of 21 for 115 yards without an interception.
Overall, Marshall struggled in the return of second-year coach Doc Holliday to his alma mater. He left West Virginia's staff two years ago.
The Thundering Herd's lone touchdown came on an 87-yard punt return by Andre Booker to open the scoring. Booker was called to duty after Troy Evans, last year's regular punt and kickoff returner, was arrested earlier in the week on armed robbery charges.
Marshall managed just five first downs and 119 yards of offense in the first half, with most of those coming on the final drive that led to a field goal.
Marshall, which has lost 11 consecutive games to ranked opponents dating to 2003, heads home to play Southern Mississippi next Saturday.
Marshall (0-0) at West Virginia (0-0) Sept. 4, 3:30, ESPN
Here's The Deal … In the Mountain State, they call this match up the Friends of Coal Bowl, an ironic moniker since the two participants are anything but friendly. This has become a nasty rivalry in the region, one that's been completely dominated by West Virginia. In fact, the Mountaineers have never lost to their foe from Huntington. They'll attempt to keep that trend going with a new head coach calling the shots. Dana Holgorsen, originally slated to be the coach-in-waiting until 2012, was given the keys to the car when Bill Stewart was let go in early June. This will be the first chance for the fans in Morgantown to get a glimpse of Holgorsen's offense, which promises to be far more up-tempo and unconventional than recent editions. Marshall is set to begin its second year with Doc Holliday as its head coach. Last season was predictably mediocre, finishing at 5-7 and in the middle of Conference USA's East Division. After taking the Mountaineers to overtime last September, the Herd would love to use Sunday's game as a launching point for the Holliday era.
Why Marshall Might Win: While the ‘neers will be taking the new offense for a test drive, the Herd defense has already logged plenty of miles at this level. The bulk of last season's D returns for Marshall, including game-changing DE Vinny Curry. He's one of the nation's premier pass rushers and a genuine concern for a West Virginia O-line seeking more consistency. With No. 99 warranting extra attention, it'll free up the rest of the front seven to make stops. Plus, S Omar Brown and the Herd secondary is an underrated group that's going complicate Holgorsen's quest to navigate the airways.
Why West Virginia Might Win: In terms of the skill positions, this game will be a mismatch. In one corner, the Mountaineers have a rising star at quarterback in Geno Smith, and tremendous speed at running back and wide receiver. Over in the other, the challenger is still trying to decide between unproven sophomore A.J. Graham and true freshman Rakeem Cato. The receivers aside, Marshall lacks the pop on offense to solve a defense that's perennially stout, even when it has myriad holes to fill. Whoever gets the nod from Holliday must deal with DE Bruce Irvin, DT Julian Miller and a feisty West Virginia pass rush.
What To Watch Out For: The one big misnomer about Holgorsen's system is that it ignores the ground game. Nothing could be further from the truth. By spreading the field, his offenses actually create wider running lanes for the backs. In Morgantown, the only question now is who replaces Noel Devine as the feature runner. One sure thing is that it's going to be a wide-open and fluid situation right into the opener. The staff's options include sophomore Trey Johnson and a trio of rookies, Dustin Garrison, Andrew Buie and Vernard Roberts. Youth is going to be served in the backfield, one way or another.
What Will Happen: New coach. New offense. Interesting times in Morgantown. While West Virginia is excited about the future for the first time in a while, it doesn't mean that the new systems will be ready-made right out of the gate. It's going to take a while before the offense clicks and the defense adjusts to so many unfamiliar faces in the rotation. Still, the Herd hasn't exactly narrowed the gap on the Mountaineers, which means this rivalry will remain one-sided for at least another year.
CFN Prediction: West Virginia 28 … Marshall 16
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