WVU racks up 69 points in win over Marshall
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Welcome to Dana World. Fasten your seat belt.
In West Virginia's final football game last season, the Mountaineers scored 70 points against Clemson in an Orange Bowl victory. Big things are expected from coach Dana Holgorsen's team this season, and the Mountaineers didn't disappoint in Saturday's opener against in-state rival Marshall.
No. 11 WVU trounced the Thundering Herd, 69-34, before 55,120 fans at Milan Puskar Stadium, racking up 655 total yards in the process. It's the highest point total in an opener, surpassing WVU's 66-22 win over Richmond in 1958.
Eight different players scored for a team that star wideout Stedman Bailey said is capable of scoring 50 points every time out.
“That's pretty good. It should have been nine (touchdowns),” said Holgorsen, referring to a failed running play on fourth-and-goal in the first quarter.
Led by Heisman Trophy candidate Geno Smith, WVU never took its foot off the pedal in what could be the last game of the series. The Mountaineers are 12-0 all-time against Marshall.
Smith, who connected on his first eight passes, was in total command. Spreading the field by throwing to multiple receivers, he was 32 of 36 for 323 yards and four touchdowns. He wasn't sacked. Smith also rushed for a score, a 28-yard bolt up the middle that gave the Mountaineers a 48-17 lead in the third quarter.
“He completed 90 percent of his passes and didn't turn the ball over,” Holgorsen said. “He managed the game as well as anyone I've ever been around.”
The constant threat of Smith directing the passing attack opened up the running game.
Shawne Alston rushed for 123 yards and two touchdowns. His 3-yard run gave the Mountaineers a 13-7 lead in the first quarter. Andrew Buie added 80 yards on six carries, and his 24-yard score made it 20-7.
WVU's balanced attack was too much for Marshall, which was never really in the game.
“It's about as balanced as you can possibly be,” Holgorsen said. “We spread the ball around to a lot of people.”
Smith closed out the first half doing what he does best: He threw a 6-yard scoring pass to Tavon Austin for a 27-10 lead, capping a three-play, 83-yard drive. Austin, who also has received mention as a Heisman candidate, gained 70 yards on a reverse to open the drive.
On WVU's next drive, Smith connected with first-time starter J.D. Woods for a 9-yard touchdown in the corner of the end zone to make it 34-10 at halftime.
Smith's ability to locate his secondary receivers when Austin and Bailey face double coverage made WVU's passing game almost impossible to stop.
Defensively, WVU did a lot of bending early but not much breaking.
Despite Marshall piling up 255 yards in the first half, the Mountaineers limited the visitors to a touchdown and field goal while stopping some key third-down plays.
WVU's defense finally broke Marshall in the third quarter. Terence Garvin sacked quarterback Rakeem Cato, who fumbled. Isaiah Bruce scooped up the ball and rumbled 43 yards for a 55-17 lead.
John Harris is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at email@example.com.