West Virginia, Exhale: What Everyone Learned from Overtime with Marshall
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Admit it. From the coaches to the players to the fans and all the way through sportswriters, most everyone thought Marshall would be no trouble.
I stuck with the feeling, which is different than a prediction, that West Virginia would have to win it late in the fourth quarter. I didn't think overtime would occur, and that it would take two late WVU touchdown drives, each over 95 yards, to send the game to overtime.
Barack Obama, at his condescending best, would call the game in Huntington a "teachable moment." Well, Mr. President...
Geno Smith Is an Outstanding College Quarterback
The nation's football community has yet to realize this, but folks all through Almost Heaven know it now. Give Geno Smith credit. Before "The Drives," Smith was a throwin' Pat White 18-28 for 150 yards. But midway through the fourth quarter, he channeled his inner Joe Montana, leading "The Drives" with an incredible 14 for 17 for 166 yards and one touchdown and the tying two point conversion. You can see the man begging for LSU.
Noel Devine Will Most Likely Not Put Up Heisman Numbers
In the two opening games playing against less than Top 25 quality teams, Devine has been held to under 125 yards each time. That's good. It's just not Heisman quality. If Noel strings together a few games for over 200 yards, I'll be among the first to hop on his bandwagon...late, but I'll be there.
That's OK, All Noel Devine Will Do Is Win Football Games
In Devine's two games, he has answered the durability question. He carried the ball over 20 times in each game as he was Coastal Carolina's and Marshall's gameplan key. He was also a leading receiver in both. Most importantly, Devine in both games scored late touchdowns to help put them away. Trade the Heisman for 12-0.
West Virginia's Offensive Line Will Be Just Fine
Coastal Carolina put all emphasis on their front seven, giving a Mountaineer O-line trouble that was just becoming acquainted with one another. Marshall surprised more than a few people with its quality front seven that just played its typical football. The Herd's big men on defense executed blitz packages that controlled the edges. Just when we thought offensive coordinator Jeff Mullen was getting frustrated with hurries and sacks, Geno took over. That's teamwork.
Defense Is Still the Name of the Game at West Virginia
Marshall got one long run on the Mountaineer D by running back Martin Ward. WVU defensive backs held Herd key wideout Antavious Wilson to 24 yards, albeit two touchdowns. And, inexplicably, in one play that made WVU fans bang their heads on the nearest hard surface, West Virginia left the corners on an island, which Thundering Herd quarterback Brian Anderson read like a USA Today. However, when the game was on the line, the defense forgot the first 54 minutes and plugged Marshall up while forcing a crucial turnover.
West Virginia Has Control of the Intangibles
For 40 years, Marshall has carried one intangible no school wants. The spirit of the 75 victims of the airline tragedy swirled through Joan C. Edwards Stadium Friday night. A record crowd of 41,000 fans, almost all Herd faithful, drove their team to a late 21-6 lead. Yet, within all that is Marshall, West Virginia respectfully didn't fold, didn't panic, or didn't point fingers and issue blame; they just did the job they hopped on the bus to do. And, they'll build on this inner strength.
Bill Stewart and His Staff of Assistants Can Draw upon Friday Night's Outstanding Coaching Performance and Carry on Through to Maryland, a Visiting Team Loaded for Bear, and at LSU, a Good SEC Team
It's time to douse Stewart's hot seat.
After taking on two teams whose circle game was the one against West Virginia, the Mountaineers are a solid 2-0 and can build from there.
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