This just might be the best offensive team that West Virginia University has fielded in 113 years of football.

That was the thought running through the mind of a guy starting his 61st year on the Mountaineer sports beat during Saturday’s 62-24 rout of a Western Michigan University team that’s picked to win the Mid-American Conference championship.

The spunky Broncos were in the game for all of 30 minutes.

But they simply couldn’t keep up with the rapid-fire pace the Mountaineers continued to maintain during the second half.

I thought WVU’s defense performed well most of the sunny, 80-degree evening. But it still has some shakes to go before being compared favorably to the high-powered, pleasingly productive ball-moving brigade.

West Virginia has never had — on the same team — a pair of superstars such as quarterback Patrick White and tailback Steve Slaton. That’s why both juniors are recognized widely from coast to coast as legitimate candidates for the Heisman Trophy.

They’re proven players with versatility and lighting-like speed, and they are surrounded with better than average players on the offensive unit. Fullback Owen Schmitt and wide receiver Darius Reynaud head the strong supporting cast.

And, as Coach Rich Rodriguez has noted on occasion, the best thing about the offense is that those two and tight end Michael Villagrana are the only seniors starting on offense.

What’s more, Noel Devine and Jock Sanders made their collegiate debuts as backups to Slaton and top one of the school’s most talented freshman classes. They and others certainly contribute to the depth that this offense possesses.

Whether West Virginia can measure up to its No. 3 national ranking, however, remains to be seen. A team needs to be lucky as well as great to become a national championship contender, which some observers think the Mountaineers are.

There always are possible pitfalls along the way on a schedule that includes No. 10 Louisville, No. 15 Rutgers and perhaps a couple other teams that could crack the Top 25 eventually.

That was a solid start to the 2007 campaign, though. The victory could be even more significant than most folks figure. Western Michigan isn’t a run-of-the-mill opponent which made the trip just for the big-bucks guarantee.

The Broncos upset Virginia 17-10 and took Florida State down to the final play before bowing 28-20 in road contests last season.

SHORT STUFF:

o Pat McAfee did a great job kicking off from the 30-yard line, five yards farther back under the new rule, and Coach Rodriguez thinks he will be a major factor in every game. But his team opted to punt just once in the game, and that one carried a mere six yards.

o WVU’s 62 points tied the Mountaineer Field/Milan Puskar Stadium record for a season’s opener. The undefeated 1988 team crushed Bowling Green 62-14. The most points scored in a home opener all-time was 66-22 vs. Richmond in the 1958 opener at old Mountaineer Field.

o It was the sixth time WVU scored 50 points or more in a game since Rodriguez took over the reins in 2001.

o WVU is 16-2 with White as the starting quarterback and 19-2 with Slaton as the starting tailback

o The Mountaineers had just eight first downs and 250 yards in total offense for their 28-14 lead at halftime. But they had 17 first downs and 292 yards in the second half.

o Western Michigan called a timeout after the game’s first play and had the ball for just three plays, minus-five yards, and 1:44 of the clock.

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