WVU slams Herd, 69-34
MORGANTOWN — The Friends of Coal Bowl football game was anything but friendly for Marshall University on Saturday at Milan Puskar Stadium.
No. 11 West Virginia racked up 655 yards of offense and had eight drives of 60 or more yards in a resounding 69-34 win over the Thundering Herd in front of 59,120 fans.
West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith showed exactly why he’s a Heisman Trophy candidate.
Smith finished with as many touchdown passes (four) as incompletions, going 33-of-37 for 340 yards while adding 65 yards and a touchdown on the ground.
In all, West Virginia (1-0) had eight touchdown drives of 60 yards or more in the contest as Marshall (0-1) couldn’t stop the Mountaineers on the ground or through the air. The Mountaineers took a commanding 34-10 lead into the halftime locker room.
West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen is well-known for his aerial attack, but it was the ground game that got the Mountaineers rolling early in this one.
Led by Shawne Alston, the Mountaineers rushed for 314 yards in the game, including 223 in the first half, to run away from the Herd. Alston finished with 123 yards and two touchdowns on 16 carries.
Marshall’s offense was able to move the ball, finishing with 545 yards. Rakeem Cato threw for a career-high 413 yards and two touchdowns on 38-of-54 passing.
Going into the contest, the Herd knew it needed to force the Mountaineers to commit turnovers, but was unable to do so. On two separate occasions, West Virginia put the ball on the ground at the feet of Marshall players, but was able to retain possession.
West Virginia jumped to a quick 13-0 lead after just 10 minutes.
Smith connected with Stedman Bailey on a 32-yard touchdown pass to open the scoring before engineering a 67-yard drive that culminated with Shawne Alston’s 3-yard touchdown run following a Marshall three-and-out.
The Herd seized a little momentum after stopping Smith on a fourth-and-goal opportunity, then turning it into a 98-yard scoring drive, capped by Travon Van’s 4-yard touchdown run.
Van’s score trimmed the deficit to 13-7, but the momentum was short-lived as Andrew Buie ripped off consecutive runs of 18 and 24 with the latter going into the end zone to push the lead back to two scores.
Following a 35-yard field goal by Marshall’s Justin Haig, West Virginia scored 21 unanswered points to put the game out of reach.
Marshall will play is first home game at 7 p.m., Saturday, against Western Carolina.