3:30 PM ET, September 4, 2011
MILAN PUSKAR STADIUM, MORGANTOWN, WV
No. 24 W. Virginia gets best of Marshall in storm-shortened opener
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- Dana Holgorsen's offense showed some signs that it could match his wide-open philosophy before the sky turned ugly.
Severe storms caused No. 24 West Virginia's season opener with Marshall to be stopped twice Sunday night and, after a total of 4 hours, 22 minutes in delays, the game was halted for good with 14:36 left in the fourth quarter, with the Mountaineers declared a 34-13 winner.
A joint statement issued by the schools' athletic directors said the decision was made to stop the game following consultations with the Big East and Conference USA commissioners' offices and the teams' medical staffs. Player fatigue and the forecast for more storms also was a factor.
From the NCAA Rulebook
ARTICLE 3. a. The referee may suspend the game temporarily when conditions warrant such action.
ARTICLE 3. b. When the game is stopped by actions of a person(s) not subject to the rules or for any other reasons not in the rules and cannot continue, the referee shall:
1. Suspend play and direct the players to their team areas.
2. Refer the problem to those responsible for the game's management.
3. Resume the game when he determines conditions are satisfactory
ARTICLE 3. c. If a game is suspended under Rules 3-3-3-a and b before the end of the fourth period and cannot be resumed, there are four possible options:
1. Resume the game at a later date;
2. Terminate the game with a determined final score;
3. Forfeit of the game; or
4. Declare a no contest.
The option that takes effect shall be determined by conference policy if both institutions are members of the same conference. In non-conference competition, the directors of athletics at the participating institutions or their designees, in consultation with the coaches, must agree on one of the four options. This agreement will include the final score if the game is terminated.
"It went exactly like we thought it would go tonight," Holgorsen said, laughing. "I'm proud of the kids (for) the way they handled this situation."
The game was first halted with 5 minutes left in the third quarter 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 Holgorsen a soggy, successful debut.
"I understand the situation," Holgorsen said. "Everybody wants to play a full game and everybody needs the snaps and it's the first game. ... I think common sense takes place at some point."
It was the latest game 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 Saturday. Games at Notre Dame, Iowa, and Tennessee were delayed by lightning and Eastern Michigan pushed back its home game from Saturday to Sunday.
Marshall was limited to 13 first downs, 187 total yards and no offensive touchdowns. Any chance of a comeback was ended by a decision that was outside of the players' control.
"In 30 years, I haven't seen a thing like that," said Marshall coach Doc Holliday. "Unfortunately, that's what happened."
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.
"At times, I didn't like our tempo and didn't like our aggressiveness," Smith said. "But I think the thing that I liked the most was they were all on the same page and knew what to do."
The 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.
"Marshall put a lot of pressure on us," Holgorsen said. "There were times that we didn't pick things up and there were some times where we didn't run our routes fast enough for Geno to get the ball out."
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.
Tavon 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.
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.
"I thought he did some really good things," Holliday said. "Number one, he didn't turn the ball over. I thought he handled the atmosphere well."
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.
Top 25 Overview
It was over when... bad weather forced officials to end the game early, with 14:36 left in the fourth quarter.
Gameball goes to... West Virginia's Geno Smith, who completed 26 of 35 passes for 249 yards and two touchdowns.
Stat of the game... 11-0. West Virginia improved its record against its in-state rival to 11-0 with the win on Sunday.
Team Stat Comparison
|3rd Down Conversions||3-11||7-14|
|4th Down Conversions||0-1||0-1|
|TD||10:18||Andre Booker 87 Yd Punt Return (Tyler Warner Kick)||7||0|
|FG||05:36||Tyler Bitancurt 27 Yd||7||3|
|TD||13:51||Ivan McCartney 4 Yd Pass From Geno Smith (Tyler Bitancurt Kick)||7||10|
|TD||05:25||Stedman Bailey 15 Yd Pass From Geno Smith (Tyler Bitancurt Kick)||7||17|
|FG||01:55||Tyler Bitancurt 43 Yd||7||20|
|FG||00:00||Tyler Warner 24 Yd||10||20|
|FG||05:14||Tyler Warner 21 Yd||13||20|
|TD||04:59||Tavon Austin 100 Yd Kickoff Return (Tyler Bitancurt Kick)||13||27|
|TD||14:36||Vernard Roberts 1 Yd Run (Tyler Bitancurt Kick)||13||34|