Friday, September 10, 2010
West Virginia escapes in OT
By Brian Bennett
West Virginia's season was on the ropes.
The Mountaineers trailed 21-6, and Marshall had the ball inside their 5 with 8:28 left. A score probably would have ended things.
Geno Smith led West Virginia on a 98-yard touchdown drive, followed by a two-point conversion to tie the game in regulation.
Instead, the Thundering Herd fumbled. And West Virginia pulled off a comeback for the ages.
Led by impressive sophomore quarterback Geno Smith, the Mountaineers mounted two long touchdown drives and a two-point conversion to tie things up with just seconds left. Then Tyler Bitancurt nailed a field goal in overtime and Marshall missed its field-goal try, giving No. 23 West Virginia a 24-21 victory. Mountaineers fans everywhere -- and the Big East -- could exhale.
How about Smith? West Virginia had to go 98 yards with a little more than three minutes left and one timeout to get the tying score. He floated a beautiful pass to Will Johnson in the corner of the end zone for the touchdown and found Jock Sanders in the back of the end zone for the two-pointer. Smith showed amazing poise for a sophomore making his second college start, and he looks like a star in the making.
That is, if his offensive line can give him protection. West Virginia almost lost because Marshall's defense eviscerated their offensive line, hurrying and hitting Smith often. That unit was completely exposed by former West Virginia assistant Doc Holliday's new team, and the Mountaineer won't go far if they don't start blocking better.
There was a lot not to like about the Mountaineers' performance. Too many penalties. Turnovers. Marshall often looked better-prepared and far hungrier.
But the bottom line is that West Virginia won, and thankfully for Stewart. His fan base would have roasted him for being the first coach to lose to Marshall in school history. There will still be a lot of grumbling in the days to come, but he and his team live to fight another day. Their goal of returning to the 10-win plateau looks shakier now, especially with Maryland and LSU coming up.
At least they escaped to get to 2-0. And at least the Big East didn't suffer another embarrassing loss.