NCF Nation: WVU-Marshall 2010

West Virginia escapes in OT

September, 10, 2010
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.

[+] EnlargeGeno Smith
AP Photo/Jeff Gentner 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.


OT between West Virginia and Marshall

September, 10, 2010
West Virginia trailed 21-6 and Marshall had the ball inside the Mountaineers' 5 with 8:28 left.

But the Thundering Herd fumbled, the Mountaineers recovered and quarterback Geno Smith led a remarkable comeback. The game is tied at 21 and heading to overtime after Smith hit Will Johnson for a touchdown in the final seconds and then converted the two-point conversion to Jock Sanders.

What a comeback. West Virginia may avoid disaster yet.

Coal Bowl all ash for WVU so far

September, 10, 2010
One of my reservations about West Virginia this year was the offensive line. Yes, the Mountaineers returned four starters, but I didn't think it was a very impressive group last year.

Against Marshall, the line is playing like anything but a veteran group. The Thundering Herd defense is getting all kinds of penetration, hurrying and hitting quarterback Geno Smith and putting up a surprising 14-3 halftime lead in Huntington.

West Virginia has 57 rushing yards on 19 carries, and that includes a 23-yard run by Ryan Clarke late in the half. The Mountaineers have also given away 40 yards in penalties, compared to four for Marshall.

The offensive line isn't the only one to blame; there have been defensive breakdowns as well. Marshall's Martin Ward ripped off a 55-yard run on the first drive, leading to a touchdown pass on a botched coverage. And after the West Virginia offense got stuffed on a fourth-and-1 inside the Marshall 10, Brian Anderson found Aaron Dobson for a 96-yard touchdown strike.

Credit Doc Holliday for going big on that play. Anderson faked a handoff in his own end zone and found Dobson alone in coverage against cornerback Keith Tandy, who had no chance.

Right now, Marshall is more physical and more aggressive. And if the West Virginia offensive front doesn't start blocking better, the Thundering Herd might just grab their first-ever victory in this in-state series. I don't need to tell you how devastating that would be for the Mountaineers.