WVU Trounces Tigers

A few hours before kickoff on Saturday, the rain cleared and a rainbow appeared over Milan Puskar Stadium. The pot of gold came – as dark fell over Morgantown – in the form of an easy 54-0 shutout victory for West Virginia over Towson.

The Mountaineers’ offense was unlike it had been since the likes of Geno Smith, Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey wore the old gold and blue. Starting quarterback Clint Trickett impressed for the second straight game, throwing for 348 yards and two touchdowns. He missed on only five of 40 passes before being subbed out for true freshman William Crest late in the third quarter when the game was easily sealed.

"Everyone having a year of experience under their belt is just going to help everyone out including me," Trickett said. "We look comfortable out there and look like we know what we're doing. We just need to continue doing that throughout the season."

Towson head coach Rob Ambrose said of Trickett: "He ran his offense to a tee. He did what was asked of him and did extremely well. They will be really impressed with him in the future."

It was the biggest margin of victory for WVU since it beat Rutgers by 73 in 2001. The Mountaineers haven't scored more than 50 points since Dec. 1, 2012 before this game.

"For the first time since Geno was here … I felt like I could call plays and [Clint] could just make it work," said WVU head coach Dana Holgorsen.

In total, the WVU (1-1) offense recorded 606 yards - a season high. It put up 317 of those in the first half when 20 of its 52 plays were run in the red zone.

Sophomore running back Rushel Shell had no trouble making an impact – particularly in the first half. He finished with 118 total yards including his first career touchdown on the ground. Wendell Smallwood had just as much of an all-around impact with 88 total yards on 11 touches.

"We just wanted to show everyone that we could run the ball and that we have a great backfield," Shell said. "We just got the opportunity and seized the moment."

As for receivers, Kevin White led the Mountaineers in catches and yards with 10 and 101. It was his second straight game of double-digit catches, a mark last recorded by Bailey. Mario Alford and Jordan Thompson scored touchdowns.

"You want to go out and take care of business. That was my one message to the offense ... let's not make it a 24-17 game. I was pleased with the effort," said offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson.

While the Mountaineers’ offense will make the headlines in the win, the defense performed just as well … if not better.

It was the first shutout since 2010 when the Mountaineers held Coastal Carolina off the board the entire game.

Players of The Game
Rushel Shell
71 yards
First career TD
Kyle Rose
2 tackles
"We really executed the game plan well and eliminated the mistakes," said defensive coordinator Tony Gibson.

They held Towson to just 122 total yards and just 68 in the first half as Tony Gibson’s defense flexed its muscles early and often even without starter Wes Tonkery, who left the game in the first quarter with a leg injury.

The defense forced its first safety since last November in the third quarter and held the Tigers, a team that put up masterful numbers on the ground a year ago, to just 1.4 yards per rush.

West Virginia’s troubles from the season opener against Alabama seemed to not be an issue against the Tigers on Saturday. The receivers managed to drop just one pass, the Mountaineers were solid in the red zone and did what they needed to in third-down situations unlike a week ago.

"Chemistry has been build within this offense. We're all just clicking," Thompson said. "We have built a trust, and it's a great feeling."

West Virginia made quick work of its first drive, flying down the field in a little more than four minutes before Smallwood gave the Mountaineers a 7-0 lead on a one-yard touchdown. The drive was highlighted by a few stunning plays from Shell, who totaled 33 yards on four touches.

West Virginia’s next drive stalled at the goal line, as the Towson defense toughened and forced the Mountaineers into a short field goal to take a 10-0 lead.

Towson surprisingly elected to go for it on fourth-and-seven at the WVU 46-yard line toward the end of the first half, and WVU easily stuffed a quarterback keeper to give back the ball to the Mountaineers’ offense. Kicker Josh Lambert would end up missing a 34-yard field goal, however, after West Virginia’s drive stalled once again in the red zone.

After the WVU defense made a three-and-out stop, Towson elected to gamble for a second straight possession and faked the punt, but a strong tackle by special teamer Cullen Christian thwarted the play and gave the ball to WVU at the Towson 44-yard line. Shell would score the first touchdown of his Mountaineer career – a two-yard score – to take advantage of the Tigers’ failed tricks and extend the lead to 17 points.

After another defensive stop by WVU, the offense went with the no-huddle and found the end zone with no trouble, as Alford pulled in a bobbling ball from Trickett on his back in the corner of the end zone to take a 24-0 lead with 4:38 left in the first half.

Trickett shined his brightest on West Virginia’s last offensive possession of the first half. He threw a few passes that showed maturity and understanding of the offense and walked a keeper into the end zone from five yards out to extend WVU’s lead to 31-0 at the half.

The second was much of the same for the Mountaineers. Trickett threw a 19-yard laser to Thompson, who caught it and ran into the end zone for the touchdown – a drive that took fewer than two minutes – to go up 38-0.

After a missed fourth-down conversion near the goal line by the offense, the defense pressured Towson quarterback Connor Frazier into an intentional grounding call ending in a safety to increase WVU's lead to 40.

On Crest's first possession, he turned it over, the Mountaineers first of the day. But, he redeemed himself on the next drive, leading WVU to a touchdown - a four-yard run from Crest - to make it 47-0.

Running back Andrew Buie added a touchdown late to make it 54-0.

A total of 56,414 fans attended the home opener at Milan Puskar Stadium despite a rain-filled forecast.

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