This observer came away from the inaugural Friends of Coal Bowl football game on Saturday with a couple of firm feelings.

The foremost was that West Virginia University really has rediscovered a potentially potent passing attack.

The other thought was that Marshall isn’t on the same level as WVU yet in what most folks hope will become a true rivalry eventually.

While it certainly proved competitive in bowing by just 42-31 in the previous meeting in 1997, the Thundering Herd hardly had a chance in Saturday’s 42-10 shellacking at Mountaineer Field/Milan Puskar Stadium.

The Mountaineers more than measured up to their No. 5 national ranking and, in the process, showed that they no longer are one dimensional on offense.

WVU surprised by being closer to a 60-40 percent rushing-passing ratio in building a 28-7 half-time bulge than it has been in a long, long time.

Even Coach Rich Rodriguez broke out in a wide grin when asked about the team’s sudden step toward balance.

Sophomore Patrick White completed 9 of 11 passes in the first half for 123 yards and two touchdowns. He added 45 yards on one completion in just three attempts in the second half.

His 168-yard total is a career high.

Freshman Jarrett Brown took over late in the game and connected on his only attempt for five yards, giving WVU a total of 173 yards on 11-of-15.

That is just seven yards shy of the Mountaineers’ single-game high of 180 yards passing for last season in the 20-15 victory over East Carolina.

In posting its 11-1 record in 2005, WVU didn’t reach triple digits passing in four games. It had a mere 41 yards against Pitt, 78 against Rutgers, 86 against Maryland and 89 against South Florida.

For the year, the Mountaineers averaged just 116.5 ypg in the air. In contrast, they rushed at a rate of 272.4 ypg.

Make no mistake, WVU still has one of the country’s most productive ground game (325 yards Saturday). It will continue to be that as long as sophomore tailback Steve Slaton, White and junior fullback Owen Schmitt are around.

Too, you’ve got to give considerable credit to WVU’s offensive line. It has to be one of the most effective blocking brigades in America.

White looked like a sharper passer Saturday. He sees the field well, and the experience he got in 2005 showed.

What’s more, the receiving corps came to life. No fewer than seven players caught one or more passes.

Brandon Myles scored touchdowns on two of his three receptions. Tito Gonzales had a team-high 61 yards on two catches.

Myles has to be one of the better receivers in the Big East. He was last year’s leader.

With 19 starters from last season, Marshall should improve as the season progresses in Mark Snyder’s second year as head coach. But it must continue to build the program back to where retired Bob Pruett had it.

The state’s only Division I-A schools have met just six times in more than a century. In sweeping the series, WVU has outscored the Huntington school by a staggering 294-62.

That’s hardly indicative of what a rivalry should be.

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