By Christopher Marshall for MSNsportsNET.com
September 2, 2006
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- Steve Slaton ran 33 times for 203 yards and two touchdowns to lead No. 5 West Virginia to a 42-10 victory over Marshall in the inaugural Friends of Coal Bowl Saturday afternoon at Milan Puskar Stadium. Pat White added balance to the Mountaineer attack, completing 10 of his 14 aerial tries for 168 yards and a pair of scores.
“The biggest thing was to get the win. It was a nice win at home. We had new guys starting and we had less unknowns this year than last year,” said West Virginia Coach Rich Rodriguez.
After holding Marshall to a three-and-out on the opening possession of the game, the Mountaineer offense returned to business as usual, using seven plays to drive 52 yards for the game’s opening score. White found Brandon Myles with an eight-yard strike over the middle to give WVU a 7-0 lead with 10:52 remaining in the first quarter.
After another three-and-out by the Herd offense, the Mountaineers wasted no time striking again. Using their punishing ground attack, West Virginia covered 61 yards in seven plays. Slaton capped the drive with a 14-yard run to give the Mountaineers a 14-0 lead at the 6:14 mark of the first quarter.
The two teams traded punts to end the first quarter, and early in the second period the Herd offense was on the move. Marshall moved the ball to the WVU 35 yard line when quarterback Bernie Morris was flagged for an illegal forward pass. Faced with fourth and 21 from the WVU 40-yard line, the Herd was forced to punt.
Marshall punter Ian O’Conner downed his punt at the WVU four yard line and from there the Mountaineer offense went to work. Aided by personal foul and pass interference penalties, WVU cruised into Marshall territory again. From the Marshall 18, White again hooked up with Myles down the middle of the field in the end zone. Despite a vicious hit from free safety C.J. Spillman, Myles hung on to the ball to give West Virginia a 21-0 lead with 7:36 remaining in the half.
Despite the three-touchdown deficit, Marshall wouldn’t quit. The Herd used seven plays and covered 65 yards for their first score off the day. Tight end Matt Morris went up between two Mountaineer defenders to snag an acrobatic 21-yard touchdown reception and cut the Marshall deficit to 21-7 with 5:09 to play in the half. The play was initially ruled incomplete, but instant replay confirmed the catch. Rodriguez complimented the never-say-die attitude of the Herd
“Marshall played hard. Nothing was easy today,” Rodriguez said. “The played hard on both sides of the ball.”
The ensuing kickoff was downed for a touchback and after Slaton was thrown for a one yard loss and White carried for six yards on a quarterback keep, the Mountaineers were faced with a critical third and five play from their own 25 yard line. You could feel the momentum in the stadium beginning to turn. Coming off their first score of the game, a three and out might have been just what the Herd needed to get back in the game.
But White never gave them that chance. He dropped back and after calmly going through his progression, found sophomore wide receiver Jeremy Bruce for a 23-yard gain setting up a first down at the WVU 48 yard line. From there the Mountaineers needed only five plays to reach paydirt for the fourth time. Slaton carried the ball off the right side for 16 yards to give the Mountaineers a 28-7 lead and more comfortable cushion with 1:29 left in the half.
The Mountaineer defense again forced the Herd off the field on three plays and after driving 27 yards to the Marshall 27 yard line, the Mountaineer offense had a chance to get three more with seven seconds left on the clock. However, Pat McAfee’s 44-yard field goal attempt was blocked as time expired in the first half.
The two teams traded possessions to begin the third quarter and after a Quinton Andrews interception return to the Mountaineer 34 yard line, West Virginia tacked on six more on their second possession of the half. After a six yard run by Slaton, Darius Reynaud took off on a 16 yard reverse up the right side. Slaton and Owen Schmitt followed that with runs of 16 and 18 yards respectively. Schmitt culminated the drive with a bruising three-yard run to give the Mountaineers a 35-7 advantage at the 6:54 mark of the third quarter.
Marshall got on the board once more. The Herd used nine plays to get to the West Virginia 26 yard line. From there Marshall kicker Anthony Binswanger connected on a 43-yard field goal to make the score 35-10 with 1:45 left in the third quarter.
The Mountaineers (1-0) added one final touchdown when backup quarterback Jarrett Brown scored on a quarterback keeper from seven yards out.
Despite the large margin of victory, Rodriguez admits the Mountaineers have a lot to improve upon.
“We made a lot of mistakes, but that’s typical of the first game,” he said. “Everything we did wrong we can correct. We need to play more people on both sides of the ball. That’s something we definitely need to correct.”
The Mountaineers finished the game with 312 yards rushing on 54 attempts. Rodriguez explained that while small in stature, his offensive linemen are the guys that make the Mountaineer’s powerful run game happen.
“For being one of the smallest offensive lines in the country they get good strength and good leverage. Trickett gets them going and it all starts with Dan Mozes,” Rodriguez said.
For Marshall (0-1), running back Ahmad Bradshaw was held to 75 yards on 18 carries. Morris was 12 of 22 passing for one touchdown to go with one interception.
After seeing the Mountaineers in person, Marshall coach Mark Snyder believes West Virginia is worthy of its lofty ranking.
“West Virginia is a top 10 team. Their total team depth is better than ours. That’s what you need to do to make a deep run,” Snyder said.
The Mountaineers return to action next Saturday at 1 p.m. when they host Eastern Washington at Milan Puskar Stadium.
WV -- Myles 8 pass from White (McAfee kick)
RUSHING: MAR -- Bradshaw 18-70, Small 5-39, Morris 8-37, Turner 2-17, Team 1-minus 9, Total 34-154; WV -- Slaton 33-203, White 7-48, Schmitt 6-38, Reynaud 1-16, Brown 1-7, Colson 4-0, Total 52-312.
PASSING: MAR -- Morris 12-22-1-168-1; WV White 10-14-0-168-2, Brown 1-1-0-5-0, Total 11-15-0-173-2.
RECEIVING: MAR -- Morris 3-63, Slate 3-57, Bradshaw 3-25, Spann 2-13, Shope 1-10, Totals 12-168; WV -- Myles 3-33, Gonzales 2-61, Schmitt 2-28, Bruce 1-23, Slaton 1-12, Reynaud 1-11, Anderson 1-5, Total 11-173.
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