Posted by Chip Patterson
WEST VIRGINIA WON. It was an odd and awkward victory, but the Mountaineers overcame three different weather delays to finally collect the victory over the in-state rival Marshall 34-13. The game was finally called with 14:36 left in the fourth quarter after more than three hours of delays brought both teams in and out of the locker room several times. Geno Smith stole the show in head coach Dana Holgorsen's debut, completing 26 of 35 passes for 249 yards and 2 touchdowns in just over 3 quarters of action.
WHY WEST VIRGINIA WON: The Mountaineers defense, for the most part, frustrated the Thundering Herd and continued to put freshman quarterback Rakeem Cato in third and long situations. West Virginia's defense only allowed Marshall to convert on 3 of 11 third downs, repeatedly setting themselves up with opportunistic field position for Geno Smith.
WHEN WEST VIRGINIA WON: Tavon Austin's 100-yard kickoff return late in the third quarter erased all of the momentum gained by Marshall after forcing a turnover on downs. The Thundering Herd used the field position to get a field goal and cut the Mountaineer lead to 20-13 with 5:14 left in the third period. Austin's return touchdown occurred just before the first weather delay, and Marshall never was able to get momentum back.
WHAT WEST VIRGINIA WON: This game provided very little insight into West Virginia's new look on offense, and did little to establish dominance over their in-state rivals. Smith looks sharp, but the Mountaineer rushing attack struggled to find a rhythm and looked inefficient at best. The Mounaineers got a mark in the win column, and a list of areas to improve, but other than Geno Smith's performance there was little that stood out on Sunday.
WHAT MARSHALL LOST: The opportunity to knock off their rivals. The Thundering Herd struck first when Andre Booker returned a West Virginia punt 87 yards for a touchdown. That 7-0 lead would be Marshall's best moment on Sunday, as the defense gave Geno Smith too much time to operate and the Mountaineers jumped out to a 20-10 lead before halftime. There is something to be said for freshman quarterback Rakeem Cato, who completed 15 of 21 passes for 115 yards. The Miami native showed potential in limited action and could be a nice building block for the future.
THAT WAS CRAZY: Other than the three different weather delays and early finish? Trying to take build some momentum after scoring just before halftime, Marshall opted to attempt an onsides kick to start the second half. They failed, but it at least showed the Thundering Herd had no plans of quitting their attack on the Mountaineers.