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Chuck Landon: Marshall does sad impression of Mountaineers

Oct. 30, 2012 @ 07:21 AM

The similarities are spooky.

Not just because it's Halloween, either.

I mean, it's as though Marshall dressed up as West Virginia University for trick-or-treat and UCF was costumed as Kansas State.

The last two games for the state of West Virginia's only two Football Bowl Subdivision programs were that similar.

Think about it.

Kansas State handed WVU a stunningly embarrassing 55-14 loss two weekends ago in Morgantown. And UCF dealt Marshall a surprisingly humiliating 54-17 defeat Saturday in Huntington.

Why, the scores were nearly identical.

And that's where the similarities begin, not end.

For example:

Marshall's lopsided loss was the worst in Edwards Stadium history. WVU's 41-point margin of defeat was the second-worst in Mountaineer Field annals.

The Herd scored only three points when it mattered, as UCF raced out to a 27-3 lead. The Mountaineers scored just seven points when the game was competitive, as Kansas State took a 31-7 halftime lead.

Both Kansas State and UCF posted identical 6-for-9 success rates in third-down efficiency. Meanwhile, WVU was 7 of 14 and Marshall 13 of 24.

Although UCF is known for running the ball and defense, the Knights completed 16 of 22 passes for 290 yards and two touchdowns. Ditto for the run-oriented, defensive-minded Wildcats. K-State passed for 333 yards and three touchdowns on 20-for-23 passing.

UCF rolled up 568 yards on 62 plays and Kansas State accumulated 479 yards total offense on -- you guessed it -- 62 plays.

Marshall managed a season-low 364 yards total offense and WVU was held to a stunning 236 yards. The differential? Nearly the same, of course. UCF gained 204 yards more than Marshall and Kansas State had 236 yards more total offense than WVU.

Marshall was held to only 66 yards rushing. WVU? The Mountaineers managed just 88 yards. Meanwhile, UCF and Kansas State each had an identical total of four rushing touchdowns.

But, perhaps, the biggest similarity of all?

UCF is coached by George O'Leary, who unapologetically believes in old-school football. Kansas State is led by venerable Bill Snyder, who is even older-school.

They believe in running the football, great fundamentals, doing just about everything correctly and playing tough, hard-nosed tenacious defense.

Now, let's compare the Marshall and WVU programs they lambasted.

Marshall plays an ultra fast-paced spread offense that averages more than 90 plays per game. At least partially because of that, the Herd's defense is horrid.

West Virginia plays coach Dana Holgorsen's famed "Air Raid" offense, which hinges on a prolific passing game and also is fast-paced. And, yes, at least partially because of that style of offense, the Mountaineers' defense is horrible.

Now, does anyone honestly believe those similarities and the lopsided results they produced in both Marshall and WVU's most recent games are merely coincidental?

I hope not.

If so, the naysayers are sadly delusional.

The extreme contrasts in styles had everything to do with Marshall and WVU's embarrassingly one-sided defeats.

Sure, the fast, faster and fastest spread offense creates gaudy statistics and lights up the scoreboards when the team is playing sub-standard or comparable competition.

But when the new-age offense meets a talented team that still embraces the values and nuances of old-school football ... well, as Marshall and WVU proved in their most recent outings, it isn't even a contest.

One concept sells tickets.

The other wins championships.

It's as obvious as the latest FBS results in the state of West Virginia.

Chuck Landon is a columnist for The Herald-Dispatch. Call him at 304-526-2827 or email him at clandon@herald-dispatch.com.

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