West Virginia Poised for Great Success After Marshall Win

Daniel KablackCorrespondent IIISeptember 5, 2011

West Virginia will be riding high on the arm of potential Heisman candidate Geno Smith
West Virginia will be riding high on the arm of potential Heisman candidate Geno SmithAndy Lyons/Getty Images

The only thing that kept Dana Holgorsen's brand new West Virginia offense from putting up 50 points on the Marshall Thundering Herd in their season opener on Sunday was Mother Nature.

West Virginia debuted their new offensive scheme under dark, cloudy skies in front of a packed Milan Puskar Stadium.

The crowd was electric in anticipation of the highlights that will be created this year in Morgantown.

Holgorsen's Mountaineers had some very early game issues, at times showing the inability to protect WVU quarterback Geno Smith, but those were quickly forgotten by the beginning of the second quarter when Smith connected with Ivan McCartney for a four-yard touchdown.

"They put a lot of pressure on us, there were some times we didn't pick things up and there were some times where we didn't run our routes fast enough to give Geno a chance to get the ball out," Holgorsen said to the media in a late post-game press conference.

There were also many interesting backfield sets that we haven't been used to seeing since the days of Rich Rodriguez, including the three back set called the "diamond formation."

When Holgorsen started coaching at Oklahoma State last season as offensive coordinator, this formation ended up producing 613 yards and seven touchdowns through his first three games as the Cowboys' OC.

Having so many players in the backfield gives the Mountaineers options in the run or passing game they didn't have last season, and caused the Marshall defense to become confused at times, forcing their hand.

Geno Smith took advantage of that confusion.

Overall, Smith played well, completing 74 percent of his passes, tallying up nearly 250 yards and tossing a couple touchdowns, and all through only three quarters of play.

As time went on, Geno and the Mountaineer offense got more in sync and more efficient.

Their running back corps, which is full of young talent, mostly consisted of short running plays by freshmen Andrew Buie and Vernard Roberts.

Neither player amassed many yards, but much of that could be attributed to the poor play of the West Virginia offensive line.

The big guys up front will have to come together as a unit and learn their positions in this offense in order to help a Holgorsen game plan that involves many screens out of the back field and requires great run and pass blocking.

The Mountaineer's special teams were thought to be an issue before this game began as they brought in new special teams coach Daron Roberts. That thought was magnified after Marshall punt returner Andre Booker took a return 87 yards to the house to give Marshall an early 7-0 lead.

LOUISVILLE, KY - NOVEMBER 20:  Geno Smith#12 of the West Virginia Mountaineers throws a pass during the Big East Conference game against the Louisville Cardinals at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium on November 20, 2010 in Louisville, Kentucky.  (Photo by Andy
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

But near the end of the third quarter, West Virginia's special teams responded as Tavon Austin ran back a 100-yard touchdown kickoff return.

Then came the rain.

The game was delayed twice during a seven-hour span, the first timeout coming with about five minutes left in the third quarter.

Players and fans took cover as a storm moved in overhead, drenching the field below.

Water turned the stadium stairs into a cascading waterfall, making navigation by foot nearly impossible.

Lightning even hit the stadium a few mere feet from ignorant spectators who failed to heed to the warnings of the approaching storm.

Three hours later, officials let the teams know they were to get their players warmed up in anticipation of the completion of the game.

Beginning play again now under the lights, West Virginia's offense was on fire.

Geno Smith directed a drive into the red zone, which was capped off by a one-yard touchdown run by running back Vernard Roberts to give the Mountaineers a 34-13 lead with 14:36 left on the clock in the fourth quarter.

Then the skies turned black and the rain began to fall again.

Officials decided to call in the teams and meet with the schools' athletic directors to discuss what they might want to do.

Because of the lengthy delays and the stress being placed on the players, ultimately, both agreed to end the longest game in West Virginia University history.

The win gave Dana Holgorsen his first victory as the head coach of West Virginia football.

The future of the Mountaineers looks bright after just the first week. Many aspects of West Virginia's game have improved from last season with the offense seemingly able to score at will. Issues will have to be addressed at the offensive line position, but overall, they played well against a slightly better than average team.

This is exactly the way Dana Holgorsen wanted it.

If he continues to get his way, by the end of the season, the eyes of the nation will be on the West Virginia Mountaineers in Morgantown.


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