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Marshall Thundering Herd Vs. West Virginia Mountaineers: What We Learned

The day after a memorable Coal Bowl, which stretched nearly eight hours and included a couple of weather delays of biblical proportions, there still are a lot of questions facing the Mountaineers.  Here's a brief look at what we learned yesterday after just three quarters of football.

  • The path to success is through the air.  People expected a lot of passing out of Holgorsen's new offense, and they got it.  Geno Smith looked good airing it out going 26 for 35, for 249 yards and a pair of touchdowns.  Ivan McCartney and Stedman Bailey were on the receiving end of Geno's touchdown tosses, and each got a lot of work, hauling in five catches apiece.  Wake Forest transfer Devon Brown grabbed four balls and looked to be a favorite target of Geno's as well.  All in all, nine different Mountaineers had receptions and the future looks bright for the WVU passing game.
  • The run game needs work.  For everything the passing game was, the running game wasn't.  Freshmen Vernard Roberts and Andrew Buie got the bulk of the work, but the Mountaineers tallied a paltry 42 yards rushing on 26 carries.  Not impressive numbers to say the least.  That said, these Mountaineers may use the rushing game to simply keep the opposition honest, so there's nothing to panic about yet.
  • Special teams could be a deciding factor.  The game's scoring got underway when Andre Booker returned a punt 87 yards for a touchdown, which quickly quieted the raucous Morgantown crowd. An Achilles heel just a year ago, it still appears that WVU has a long way to go on special teams.  The unit redeemed themselves two quarters later with a 100 yard Tavon Austin kickoff return, but it appears obvious that the potential for doom looms on every kicking play.  With LSU coming to town in three weeks, the 'Eers will need to shore up their special teams play in a hurry or they may get mauled.
  • The defense needs to tighten up against the run. The defense made Rakeem Cato look like a freshman... but had problems when the Herd ran it up the middle.  Sophomore Tron Martinez had a 7.6 yard per carry average, and a long run of 22.  While the Mountaineer pass rush looked good, it also looked like opposing runners could run right by them, and may find success once they reach the second level.
  • There's still a lot to learn. The truth is, it was a bizarre game, which barely got into the second half before being disrupted by weather and never regained its rhythm.  Mountaineers fans feel like they've waited an eternity for the Dana Holgorsen era to begin, and now they will have to wait another week for the Mountaineers to get a full four quarters in. WVU showed some very good things on Sunday, and seem to have some issues that need addressed.

Photographs by dizfunk used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.