With the loss, Marshall falls to 0-2 on the season but played much better than the club that fell last week in Miami, 31-3. Steve Slaton led the Mountaineers with 146 yards rushing and two rushing touchdowns. Freshman Noel Devine came into the game in the fourth quarter and picked up 76 yards and scored twice in the fourth quarter. Patrick White was very effective, passing for 149 yards and two touchdowns while rushing for 125 yards and a 20-yard touchdown that gave WVU the lead 20-16 in the third quarter and West Virginia never trailed again.
For the Herd, who will now have to travel to West Virginia in both 2008 and 2009, with WVU winning two of the first three games, Bernard Morris passed for 256 yards and two touchdowns. The rushing game was led by freshman Darius Marshall, who gained 80 yards on the ground, but had a critical fumble that set WVU up for a touchdown that started the fans to their cars. "We have some playmakers," said Marshall head coach Mark Snyder. "Darius Marshall is one of those playmakers. This (was) his first fumble all through camp."
Darius Marshall looked for running room against West Virginia. The freshman back returned the opening kickoff 70+ yards to start the game on a high note. photo by Greg Perry/HI staff
One problem in addition to the turnovers was third downs, wher Marshall only converted on five of 15. "Five of 15 is not good enough on third down," said Snyder. "We throw well enough to convert." Overall, Snyder was fairly happy with the first three quarters when his team stood nose to nose with the third best team in the nation. "I think we have a decent chance to be good, we just have to learn how to be good."
Marshall jumped out to the lead in the game with a 32-yard field goal by Anthony Binswanger with 13:06 left on the clock. That came after an electric 77-yard kickoff return by Marshall, the player, to set up Marshall, the team, for its opening score.
A crowd of over 40,000 packed in Edwards Stadium on Saturday for the annual Friends Of Coal Bowl. photo by Greg Perry/HI staff
West Virginia came right back by taking the lead with a 46-yard touchdown on a post route by Darius Reynald from White, the only big play the Herd defense surrendered in the first half. A bad snap on the point-after try meant the lead was 6-3 for WVU. Marshall came back to take a lead into the Shewey Athletic Center when Morris found Darius Passmore for a 38-yard touchdown and at 5:27 to play in the first half, Marshall led 10-6.
Darius Passmore hauled in this touchdown pass to give Marshall a 10-6 lead early in the game against WVU. photo by Greg Perry/HI staff
Passmore, who also turned a short gain into a long pass-and-catch later in the game that reminded many MU fans of another No. 88 just a decade ago when Randy Moss was with the Herd, took the ball away from the defender and kept his feet in bounds for the score. Marshall took a 13-6 lead into the house when Binswanger hit a 26-yard field goal to end the half and a Joan C. Edwards Stadium record crowd of 40,383, nearly three-quarters in Green and White, rose to its feet and hoped for an upset in the seventh-meeting all-time between WVU and MU. This was just the second game all-time in Huntington, with the last coming in 1915.
WVU came right back to tie the game on the opening drive of the second half, moving 66 yards in seven plays. White found Reynaud for a 23-yard touchdown and it was 13-13. Marshall had its final lead of the game when Binswanger, who also punted for a 40.6 yard average, was perfect on field goals at 3-for-3 on the day and nailed a 34-yarde kick to put the Herd up 16-13.
Back came West Virginia, scoring just three minutes later to retake the lead for good on White's 20-yard touchdown that ended a nine play, 65 yard drive. Three minutes later, Slaton scored his first touchdown of the day with a two-yard run and the Mountaineers led 27-16 with 3:34 to play in the third quarter.
Cody Slate ran 42 yards after the catch for this touchdown in the third quarter against West Virginia. photo by Greg Perry/HI staff
The Herd would score its final touchdown of the game near the end of the third quarter when Morris found tight end Cody Slate in the flat for a wide-open, 42-yard touchdown to cut the lead to 27-23, but that was as close as the Herd would get at the end of the third quarter. Like they did in 1997, West Virginia scored in the fourth quarter to put the game away. "They changed their offense and in the fourth quarter, their offensive front kick our line's butt," said Snyder. "Their offensive line won the battle in the trenches. I told the team whoever blinks first is probably the team that is going to lose, and we blinked." Noel Devine had the first of his two touchdowns in the final quarter when he went 12 yards for a score with 10:28 to play to push the Mountaineers out to a 34-23 lead.
Slaton tacked on his second touchdown with 4:31 to play and WVU was up 41-23, and many green-clad fans headed for their tailgates. Devine added his second touchdown with 1:40 left in the game to set the final score at 48-23.
Snyder was pretty happy with the effort in the first half of the game. "It was a tale of two halves," said Snyder. "We played as well as we played any game since I have been here. We played West Virginia as well as anyone has. We played in the second half like we did last week. We're better than we were last week, but that's not good enough," continued Snyder.
"We have to play a perfect game to beat a good football team, and my hat's off to West Virginia. They're a good team." Snyder also like the improvement in the offense, scoring 23 points after just getting a field goal against the Hurricanes. "We did a little bit better on offense in this game. We had a nice kickoff return to start the game, and Emanuel Spann was gone when the guy runs him down from behind (on another return). Special teams played well across the board. I was very pleased. That's the best we've played offensively, defensively and special teams since I've been here, and that's what it was going to take - a Herculean effort to play this team. We have to continue to work on ourselves this coming week."
Marshall was led in receiving by Slate, with five catches for 82 yards and his score. Passmore added five for 76 yards and one score and E.J. Wynn came in when both Shawn Lauzon (shoulder) and Courtney Edmonson (concussion) were lost during the game and Wynn caught two passes for 43 yards. Spann returned three punts for a 10.3 yard average and two kickoffs for 21 additional yards on "pooch" kicks by WVU. Darius Marshall returned three kickoffs for 108 yards. Marshall's fumble in the game, however, set up the Slaton touchdown that made the lead 11 points at the 3:34 mark of the third quarter, 27-16. "We turned the ball over on a fumble and that turned the momentum of the game around," said Snyder.
On defense, Maurice Kitchens had eight stops at linebacker and 0.5 sacks/tackles for loss, while safety C.J. Spillman also added eight tackles and 1.5 tackles for loss. Spillman led the Herd with five solo tackles while Kitchens had 12 assists (each assist counts as 0.5 total tackles. Safeties Aaron Johnson had seven stops and John Saunders, a local player from Cabell Midland High School, had 6.5 tackles in the game. Reed Williams had 8.5 tackles and 2.0 tackles for loss for WVU, while tackle Johnny Dingle had five tackles and two of West Virginia's four sacks on the day.
Marshall remains home next week, when New Hampshire comes to town for a 4:30 p.m. kickoff on Saturday, Sept. 15, a celebration of the Wildcats returning to Huntington 16 years Friday after they opened the then-Marshall University Stadium. UNH is ranked No. 6 in the Division formerly known as I-AA, now the Football Championship Subdivision of Division I.