Thunder-less Herd

WVU’s Tito Gonzales (right) races ahead of Marshall’s Jeremey Frazie for a big gain during the Mountaineers’ victory over the Thundering Herd Saturday in Morgantown.

Underdog Marshall was no match for West Virginia on Saturday in the first annual Friends of Coal Bowl.

An overflow crowd of 61,077 packed Mountaineer Field/Milan Puskar Stadium to see the fifth-ranked Mountaineers cruise to a convincing 41-10 victory on a cool, cloudy day.

WVU scored in every quarter, leading by 28-7 at halftime and then outscoring the Thundering Herd 14-3 during the final two periods.

Statistically, the home team claimed an edge in every major category. First downs were 29-16, rushing yards 312-154, passing yards 173-168 and total offense 485-322.

While happy to accept the Coal Bowl trophy from Gov. Joe Manchin, WVU coach Rich Rodriguez wasn’t completely pleased with his team’s performance.

“We made a lot of mistakes, but that’s typical of the first game,” he said. “The things to worry about most (in openers) are turnovers, missed assignments and silly penalties.”

WVU didn’t turn the ball over at all. But Rodriguez noted some missed assignments and silly penalties which must be corrected.

“Marshall played hard,” he observed. “Nothing was easy. They played hard on both sides of the ball. I’m glad our guys played hard, too.”

Mark Snyder, Marshall’s second-year head coach, admittedly wasn’t happy with his team’s showing.

“We need to get back on the winning side,” he said.

“West Virginia is a Top 10 team. Its total team depth is better than ours. That’s what you need to make a deep run.

“I am happy there weren’t more turnovers. But I’m not happy with the tackling. We just didn’t make the plays. You have to play with who you have.”

West Virginia marched 52 yards in seven plays to score a touchdown on its first possession. That came on Patrick White’s eight-yard pass to wide receiver Brandon Myles.

Pat McAfee then kicked the first of his six extra points.

The next time the Mountaineers got the ball, they drove 61 yards in seven plays, with tailback Steve Slaton going the last 14 yards.

It was 14-0 at quarter’s end.

Early in the second quarter Marshall downed a punt at the four-yard line. But WVU responded with a 96-yard, 12-play drive. That was capped by an 18-yard White-to-Myles completion.

Now the score stood 21-0 with 7:36 left in the half.

The Thundering Herd then traveled 65 yards in seven plays for its touchdown. Quarterback Bernie Morris passed 21 yards to wideout Matt Morris in the end zone.

Anthony Binwanger’s kick made the score 21-7.

But WVU followed with an 80-yard, eight-play push for its fourth TD, Slaton rounding right end for 16 yards to reach paydirt with 1:49 to go.

The Mountaineers still had time for a 44-yard field-goal attempt by McAfee, but it was blocked by Curtis Keyes as the half ended.

Quinton Andrews, a redshirt freshman, intercepted Morris’ pass at his 20-yard line to kill a Marshall scoring threat early in the third quarter.

Andrews returned the ball to his 34, after which WVU marched 66 yards in seven plays for its fifth score. Fullback Owen Schmitt, who had run 18 yards on the two previous plays, scored from three yards out.

After the ensuing kickoff, Marshall drove to the WVU 15. But mistakes forced the Herd to settle for Binwanger’s 43-yard field goal.

That made it 35-10 just before the third period ended.

With reserves in the game, the Mountaineers moved 73 yards in 12 plays with freshman quarterback Jarrett Brown scoring on a seven-yard keeper play with just 1:13 left in the game.

It was obvious that the home team simply was trying to consume more time than usual. That last drive used up 7:44 of the clock.

Slaton, a slashing sophomore, finished as the game’s top rusher with a net 203 yards on 33 carries. Marshall tailback Ahmad Bradshaw was limited to 70 yards on 18 rushes.

White, who strained an abdomen muscle in the first half, completed 10 of 14 passes for 168 yards and the two TDs. The injury hampered him in the second half, though.

Bernie Morris connected on 12 of 22 passes for 168 yards and the visitors’ lone touchdown.

Myles finished with three receptions for 33 yards and two TDs. But Tito Gonzales caught two for 61 yards.

Schmitt also had two receptions for 28 yards.

Marshall’s Matt Morris and Cody Salte had three receptions for 63 and 57 yards, respectively.

Scott Kozlowski, WVU’s new punter, averaged 38.0 yards on just three attempts. Ian O’Connor punted five times for 31.8 yards per punt.

West Virginia remains at home to play Eastern Washington next Saturday. Marshall plays Hofstra at home the same day.

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