Rushel Shell and Wendell Smallwood combined to pace a newfound dependability within the rushing game as West Virginia topped the Terps.

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Ask and ye shall receive. Running backs coach JaJuan Seider preached patience, persistence and then a punishing upfield explosion from Rushel Shell and Wendell Smallwood. And they delivered, running for a combined 225 yards in WVU’s 45-6 blowout of Maryland.

Smallwood, who had already proven capable of getting the vertical push necessary, continued to showcase his burst and ability to identify and exploit rushing lanes and play in space in a dominating display. Shell, both praised and chastised by Seider for trying too hard in previous games, ceased the stutter-stepping that cost him valuable seconds, and instead put his foot in the ground and pushed upfield with one cut. That, combined with his lower body strength and the driving 224 pounds, enabled Shell to showcase the traits that attracted West Virginia initially.

Both players were equally impressive in the passing game, Smallwood finishing with two catches for 23 yards, while Shell had arguably his finest game in that facet, with another pair of grabs for 33 yards as WVU racked up the most first downs in school history with 37. In the early going, the duo helped the establish the Mountaineer offense as a legit running threat, and one that could challenge the Maryland secondary with more than simple deep throws.

Neither broke major gainers, but the routine five to seven yard pick-ups punished the Terrapin linebackers and exploited a vaunted and sizeable front that head coach Randy Edsall hoped would at least corral the run enough to force the Mountaineers into the passing game after getting behind the chains. Neither happened.

What did was a veritable cornucopia of offensive fireworks that ended with 601 yards of offense for West Virginia, including 427 yards in the first half alone. Nearly half that, 197, was on the ground, Smallwood (115) and Shell (64) amassing 179 of that, while Skyler Howard and the aerial attack lit up the secondary for 230 yards, three scores, and a 38-0 gouging over the first 30 minutes alone. He finished 21-of-33 for 294 yards, four scores and the interception.

It was, in fact, perhaps among the more poorly executed plays that showed Shell’s renewed enthusiasm and emphasis on keeping the feet churning after the initial stop. With West Virginia ahead 28-0, the Mountaineers used Shell to pound the ball inside the red zone, reaching the two-yard line on third and goal. Shell took the hand up the middle – and was stonewalled – only to cut to the outside and lower his head, diving past a trio of Terps to score just his second touchdown of the season. It boosted the edge to an insurmountable 35-0 after the point after, and sent the message that Shell, quite frankly, might be coming into his own.

Smallwood also scored, putting WVU ahead 14-0 on a nifty four-year run, meaning along with Elijah Wellman’s score off the bootleg from Howard, that the backfield accounted for the majority of touchdowns in the half, which had yet to happen for the Mountaineers this season. Next week will prove to be significantly more challenging, but right now West Virginia has to be pleased with the progression within its running game going into the Big 12 opener at Oklahoma.


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