WVU offense lived up to the hype vs. Marshall
Published: Tuesday, September 4, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, September 4, 2012 02:09
For almost eight months, college football fans around the country waited to see what the West Virginia offense would do for its encore after its record-shattering performance in the Discover Orange Bowl.
The expectations were high – higher than they’ve been since the days of Rich Rodriguez, Pat White, Steve Slaton and Owen Schmitt.
But somehow the Mountaineers were able to live up to these expectations Saturday. And they actually looked even better.
"The best thing about this team is that we took that Orange Bowl game as kind of a stepping stone," said senior quarterback Geno Smith. "We said, ‘If we can score 70 on these guys, why can’t we score 70 a game?’
"That’s not going to happen, but we raised the bar for ourselves, and I think that’s good."
West Virginia head coach Dana Holgorsen has been talking all offseason about how much easier things are for the players in their second season in this offense. Admittedly, I was a little skeptical because after the Orange Bowl performance, I wasn’t really sure how much better and more comfortable they could be.
During their 69-34 win over Marshall in what was the final Friends of Coal Bowl for the forseeable future, the Mountaineers looked sharper than ever. They did it with their big playmakers, and they did it with balance.
It was just the second time in school history – and the first since 1965 – that West Virginia passed and ran for 300 yards in the same game.
That was perhaps the most impressive part of Saturday night’s win. Of course, Smith’s 32-for-36 performance was fantastic, but the sweeping generalization surrounding Holgorsen’s offense is that it’s just a passing attack.
And it’s hard to argue against that at times, especially when you look at the history it has had at West Virginia, Oklahoma State, Houston and Texas Tech of producing some of the nation’s most feared quarterbacks and receivers in the nation. But, if Saturday’s game proved anything, it’s that the Mountaineers aren’t one-dimensional.
WVU attempted 40 passes for 324 yards Saturday, while gaining 331 yards on 34 rushing attempts.
The Mountaineers got everyone involved. Seven players caught passes, including three players who caught at least seven passes.
In the passing game, they went to the big players the most, targeting Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey 10 times each. But Smith looked to three other
receivers at least three times.
On the ground, they were just as balanced. Led by Shawne Alston’s career-best 123 yards, four Mountaineers ran for at least 65 yards.
If this offense can continue to keep this kind of balance throughout the rest of the season, it could be really scary for a lot of teams.
What we saw on Saturday was a group led by a quarterback who looked like he could run the offense in his sleep, with at least three targets in the passing game who looked like they could be reliable threats and a running game featuring two backs who could do a lot to help keep opposing defenses honest.
It was an offense that lived up to the hype – at least for one game – and can only continue to improve as the season progresses
And that should be a really scary thought.