West Virginia notebook: Defense porous but enough
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Now a member of the Big 12, West Virginia is expecting its defense to come up with turnovers and big plays against high-powered offenses the league has to offer.
In Saturday's season-opening win against Marshall, the Mountaineers gave up 545 yards — including 413 passing — but forced two turnovers. Most prominent was Isaiah Bruce's 43-yard fumble return for a touchdown.
“I was happy with the way the defense flew around,” coach Dana Holgorsen said.
Austin, Bailey break out
Fearful of the big-play capabilities of receivers Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey, Marshall cornerbacks offered large cushions much of the day.
Still, Austin and Bailey combined for 19 receptions for 157 yards and three touchdowns.
“Not much of it worked,” Marshall coach Doc Holliday said. “It was obvious if you put that many points on the board, it didn't work a whole lot.”
All Austin, all the time
Holgorsen wants Austin to become a more complete player this season. That meant Austin remaining on the field after his 70-yard run on a reverse so the Mountaineers could continue their hurry-up offense.
Austin was involved in all three plays on the 83-yard drive in the second quarter, including a 6-yard touchdown catch.
“A year ago, Tavon would have come off the field,” Holgorsen said. “We're forcing him to (stay on) now.”
Holgorsen: Blame me
Holgorsen took blame for the Mountaineers' failure to score on fourth-and-goal from the 3-yard line in the first quarter. Quarterback Geno Smith was stopped short of the goal line.
“I should have kicked the field goal. Terrible call,” Holgorsen said. “It was me being stupid and stubborn.”
Odds and ends
Smith has thrown 10 touchdown passes in his past two games. He has 12 touchdowns in all in those games. ... Smith holds the school record for completions and touchdown passes. ... Bailey finished with 104 receiving yards, his eighth career 100-yard receiving game. He needs one more to equal David Saunders for the school record. ... WVU improved to 87-29-4 in season openers. ... The Mountaineers are 76-3 when scoring 30 or more points. ... WVU and Marshall combined for 103 points, a Milan Puskar Stadium record. ... WVU's captains were Smith, Austin, Joe Madsen, Will Clarke and Pat Miller. Holgorsen selects captains each week. ... WVU's 655 total yards were 19 short of a school record set against Washington & Lee in 1923. They were, however, a stadium record, eclipsing WVU's 643 yards against Bowling Green last season. ... WVU scored 21 points in the third quarter. The Mountaineers have scored 20 or more points in a quarter 37 times since 2001.
John Harris is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at email@example.com.