Offense Proves It Again

An offseason of hype and expectations made today's West Virginia game vs. Marshall one of the most anticipated in a while in Morgantown.

The Thundering Herd didn't make it a sexy matchup of any sort, but then again, we were all more worried about seeing just how good WVU would be anyway.

We saw a well-oiled machine on Saturday in the Mountaineers' 69-34 blowout of MU. It was an offensive performance that even I was a bit surprised by.

This WVU offense is better than the version it showed in the Orange Bowl when it put up 70 points.

Sure, the Mountaineers might not have gotten to the 70-point mark in today's season opener, but it played with even more promise than that game back in January.

"Everything we did was working," said head coach Dana Holgorsen. "We scored on six of the first seven drives or whatever it was, so we didn't need to make too many adjustments."

Shawne Alston is healthy – and powerful. His third quarter touchdown was a beauty. He just absolutely obliterated tackler after tackler to get the ball into the end zone. Even with last year's starter Dustin Garrison out, sophomore Andrew Buie seems to be a different player, too. He ran with purpose, vision and confidence.

Then there's the influx of receiver talent like J.D. Woods, Jordan Thompson and the potential of Ivan McCartney that will make any defensive coordinator cry a little in their sleep. That depth is only going to get better throughout the season, too.

Perhaps the biggest difference is up front, where the offensive line just absolutely dominated Marshall on Saturday. Smith didn't get touched in the backfield once from what I can remember.

There were times where Smith had nearly 10 seconds to sit in the pocket and find a receiver. That hadn't been possible in a handful of years, but it seems line coach Bill Bedenbaugh's tutelage has paid dividends.

"Our line was great. They made it real easy for a guy like me to make a play," Buie said. "I feel like the whole offense is a year better than what it was last year. The line is tremendous ... If they keep blocking like that, we're going to have a fun season."

The most promising aspect of Saturday's game was the simple fact that the Mountaineers backed up that Orange Bowl performance.

While it was known that WVU had talent (it's hard to argue with players like Geno Smith, Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey), it's relatively unproven outside of that Orange Bowl. Remember, this is a team that wasn't even putting up 30 points in Big East Conference play last year.

That seems like such a long time ago.

In total on Saturday, the Mountaineers' offense put up 655 yards. It averaged 8.9 yards per play.

And, in the second half, it just played with Marshall like an older brother normally does to a younger brother.

Smith finished 32-of-36 for 323 yards and five total touchdowns. He put himself right in the middle of the Heisman Trophy race in Game One, and it didn't even look like he was trying at times. I'm scared for opposing defenses when does.

"To have a guy like that with an offensive line that is able to establish the line of scrimmage is great," Holgorsen said.

The combination of Alston and Buie finished with 205 yards and three touchdowns on the ground.

As usual, Austin and Bailey were dependable targets.

It was a record-breaking season-opener for the Mountaineers and a good idea of what's to come.

I always wondered how much better WVU's offense could be in Year Two of the Holgorsen era. At every stop, it has been better.

Well, the trend continues. This West Virginia offense isn't stopping anytime soon.

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