West Virginia won. The last time we saw the Mountaineers, they were punctuating Dana Holgorsen's first season as head coach by hanging 70 points on Clemson in the most lopsided rout in BCS history. Today, they picked up right where they left off in January at the expense of their cross-state rival, Marshall, which found itself at the mercy of a full-scale carpet-bombing campaign right from the opening kickoff.
Why West Virginia won. Sheer, overwhelming firepower. As a team, West Virginia racked up 655 total yards, connected on eight plays that covered at least 20 yards and scored touchdowns on six of its first seven offensive possessions. (On the seventh, WVU turned the ball over downs inside the Marshall 10-yard-line.)Individually, seven different Mountaineers accounted for at least 50 yards from scrimmage, led by tailback Shawne Alston's 123 yards on the ground and Tavon Austin's 119 as a rusher and receiver.
As usual, though, ground zero for statistical absurdity was senior quarterback Geno Smith, who turned in another gem of a box score: 33-of-37 passing for 340 yards, four touchdowns and zero interceptions, plus a 28-yard gallop into the end zone off a broken play for good measure. Even when the offense didn't work, it worked.
When West Virginia won. Already leading 27-10, Smith hit J.D. Woods on a 9-yard touchdown pass with a minute to play in the third quarter, extending the lead to a demoralizing 34-10 at the half. At that point, Smith was 18-of-21 passing with 185 yards and three touchdowns to three different receivers, and the Mountaineers had already racked up 206 yards rushing on a little over 10 yards per carry.
What West Virginia won. No one is going to do cartwheels over a blowout win over Marshall, a 24-point underdog coming in, but no one is going to question the Mountaineers' status on the fringe of the top 10in the major polls, either. West Virginia came in with soaring expectations for the offense and looked perfectly capable of exceeding all of them.
What Marshall lost. The Thundering Herd still haven't beaten West Virginia head-to-head since the "Coal Bowl" was installed as an annual series in 2006, but at least the last couple defeats – the 2010 heartbreakerin Morgantown, in particular – have been respectable efforts. This was a public humiliation that can only deepen the inferiority complex.
That was crazy. Well, crazy for us, maybe, but just painful for Marshall linebacker Cortez Carter, who found himself on the wrong end of a truly nasty but perfectly legal hit from Andrew Buie:
Yikes. Head on a swivel, Cortez. Head on a swivel.