West Virginia Mountaineers Survive Marshall Thundering Herd: What Did We Learn?

Dan Kelley@DanKelleyWritesCorrespondent ISeptember 11, 2010

Jeff Gentner / AP
Jeff Gentner / AP

It looked like an impending disaster.

Down 21-6 early in the fourth quarter, to Marshall of all the teams; for the Mountaineers, it must have felt like receiving a beating from a younger brother. 

Not to mention, it looked like yet another embarrassment for the Big East in the early weeks of the season.

Overall, it looked like a serious downer for any Mountaineer or Big East fan's Friday night. 

But, as we now know, WVU staged a terrific rally and pulled out the win in overtime to remain undefeated all time against its instate rivals. While it’s still a bit of an embarrassment to the Mountaineers, at the end of the day, the only important thing is winning. If they continue to do just that as the season continues, nobody is going to remember (or care) about how this one went down.

Friday night was a serious test for West Virginia and there’s no time you learn more about a team than when it finds itself in these sorts of situations.

We learned a lot about the Mountaineers on Friday—here are a few bits of knowledge to take away from this one.

For one thing, the offensive line absolutely has to improve if this team wants to win the Big East title this year. The Thundering Herd defense managed to tear through the line far too many times and generally harassed Geno Smith and Noel Devine in the backfield all night.

The line is the foundation for any offense and if it struggles, the rest of the squad will as well.

With that said though, if the Mountaineer offensive line can protect him, it looks like Geno Smith could become a terrific quarterback for West Virginia.

The consecutive touchdown drives West Virginia strung together in the fourth quarter to tie the game were almost all thanks to Geno.

In those two drives he completed 14 of his 17 pass attempts for 145 yards and a touchdown and he also rushed for 38 yards.

More impressive than the numbers, though, was the poise that Smith showed in such a tough situation—down a couple scores, on the road against an instate opponent who’s never beaten WVU, with the running game essentially out of the picture, and all of this in only Smith’s second career start.

I’d say this kid has a future.

It’s a very good thing that they seem to have a good quarterback too, because they might have to win some shootouts this year.

The defense was less than impressive Friday night and should have Mountaineer fans worried.

Marshall quarterback Brian Anderson picked their secondary apart all night, completing 20 of his 29 pass attempts for 229 yards, three touchdowns, and no interceptions. To make matters worse, they weren’t able to stop the Thundering Herd on the ground either, allowing sophomore back Martin Ward to run for 101 yards on just 11 carries.

So, despite pulling out the win, there are a lot of negatives to take from this game. The Mountaineers are 2-0, so there’s no reason for panic yet, but it looks like Bill Stewart has some work to do with a trip to Baton Rouge to face LSU only two weeks away.