Crystal Ball Series - Game Four

The Crystal Ball Series, our fun look ahead at the 2004 season, wraps up September with the game against the Dukes of James Madison.

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Scoring on the first eight of its twelve total possessions, including all seven possessions of the first half, 8th-ranked West Virginia University pummeled the outmanned and overwhelmed Division 1-AA James Madison Dukes Saturday before 51,213 fans at Milan Puskar Stadium in Morgantown by a final score of 55-14. WVU led 41-7 at the half and coasted the rest of the way, getting 58 players into the action in handing JMU their third straight defeat of the season.

The Mountaineers outgained the Dukes by roughly a 3-1 margin, piling up a whopping 649 yards of total offense to the Dukes' 203 total yards. WVU also owned a whopping 26-14 advantage in first downs.

Rasheed Marshall tossed four touchdown passes, matching his career high achieved last year against East Carolina. Just as he did against the Pirates, two of the tosses went to junior wideout Chris Henry, whose only two receptions of the day went for scores. For the game, Marshall was 11 of 15 for 199 yards, spreading his completions among six different Mountaineer receivers.

Charles Hales relieved Marshall early in the second half and completed 3 of his 5 aerials, while redshirt freshman Adam Bednarik completed his only two throws late in the game. In all, WVU quarterbacks were a stellar 16 of 22 for 264 yards during the afternoon.

Kay Jay Harris led the potent Mountaineer ground attack with 17 carries for 161 yards and two touchdowns, adding to his Big East leading rushing yardage and rushing touchdowns totals. In a reserve role, sophomore Erick Phillips racked up 93 yards on 12 carries. For the day, nine different WVU rushers combined for 385 yards on 61 carries.

Crystal Ball Series
Game One
Game Two
Game Three
Not to be outdone, the Mountaineer defense held JMU quarterbacks Matt LeZotte, who was sacked twice, and reserve Jason Cooke to a miserable 12 completions on 29 attempts for just 108 yards. The stop troops also frustrated JMU's rushing attack, as they limited six JMU runners to just 95 yards on 39 rushing attempts – an average of just 2.4 yards per carry. Even the WVU special teams got into the act, as a blocked punt on the Dukes' second possession was recovered by the Mountaineers deep in JMU territory, leading to a short Harris touchdown run.

Despite the impressive statistical display, WVU head coach Rich Rodriguez was not entirely happy in the WVU locker room after the game. "We played well at times but a little sloppy at others," said the fourth-year WVU mentor. "We had far too many penalties (8 for 75 yards) and we lost our focus at times out there. We got by with that today but we can't let that continue. On the plus side, I think we can correct what we saw that we didn't like, but there's no question we've got to do some things better."

After receiving the opening kick-off, the Dukes failed to pick up a first down and punted with the Mountaineers taking possession after returning the ball to midfield. Moving to the 15-yard line in four plays, Marshall then found Henry along the back of the end zone for the first WVU touchdown and an early 7-0 lead.

On the subsequent JMU possession, the Dukes' Nick Englehart went back to punt, but West Virginia's Jeff Noechel broke through a gap in the JMU line and blocked the punt attempt. After a scramble for the loose ball, WVU's Joe Hunter recovered the ball at the JMU 2-yard line. On the next play from scrimmage, Harris went into the end zone from two yards out and the WVU lead grew to 14-0.

The Dukes failed to cross midfield on the ensuing possession, but Englehart boomed a 52-yard punt out of bounds at the WVU 8-yard line. However, the WVU offense quickly dug itself out of the hole. A Marshall-to-Eddie Jackson hook-up on first down brought the ball out to the 26, and after runs by Jason Colson and Marshall put WVU at the Dukes' 47, Marshall sent a long pass down the Dukes' sideline. Henry hauled in the bomb as he crossed the goal line for the third Mountaineer touchdown of the first quarter and the WVU leaded swelled to 21-0.

On the next kick-off, JMU's D. D. Boxley caught the ball at the 5 and broke left, then right and finally up the middle on his way to a 95-yard kick-off return for the first JMU points of the afternoon. "We had a couple of breakdowns in our coverage on the return that shouldn't have happened," lamented WVU special teams coordinator and quarterbacks coach Bill Stewart. "We'll need to fix that quickly, but it's something we can correct."

WVU's Brandon Myles received the subsequent JMU kick-off and nearly scored himself, settling for a 46-yard return to the JMU 44 after the lone remaining would-be JMU tackler – kicker David Rabil – finally drove Myles out of bounds.

WVU then methodically drove to the Dukes' 2-yard line, but the JMU defense held and the Mountaineers settled for Brad Cooper's first of two field goals on the day, a 21-yarder. That gave West Virginia a 24-7 lead heading into the second quarter.

The Mountaineer defense again held JMU's offense in check, and after another Englehart punt another WVU drive appeared well on its way to a touchdown. However, a personal foul penalty thwarted the drive's momentum and Cooper was again called upon. The senior nailed his second kick of the day, this one from 35 yards away, which pushed the lead out to 27-7.

JMU's offensive futility continued on the next possession with a three-and-out and WVU took over on the JMU 42-yard line. A Marshall-to-John Pennington pass covering 23 yards put West Virginia at the Dukes' 7-yard line and Harris went into the end zone two plays later from two yards out for his second and the Mountaineers' fourth touchdown of the half. That score ballooned the lead to 34-7 with more than half of the second quarter still to play.

After three consecutive Matt LeZotte incompletions – one nearly intercepted by the Mountaineers' Lawrence Audena – the sixth Englehart punt of the first half went out of bounds at the WVU 28. From there, five running plays moved the Mountaineer offense to the Dukes' 49-yard line, then Marshall hit senior receiver Eddie Jackson for a gain of 27 to the Dukes' 22. Two plays later, Marshall found Jackson again, this time in the end zone for his third touchdown pass of the half. That play wrapped up on of the biggest scoring halves in recent memory, as West Virginia put 41 big points on the board in the opening 30 minutes.

For the half, Marshall was 10 of 14 for 199 yards and 3 touchdowns – two to Henry – and Harris had gained an even 100 yards on 14 carries plus two touchdowns. Overall, the Mountaineers piled up 401 yards of total offense in the first half alone compared to the Dukes' total of just 68 yards.

Asked what he told his team at halftime, Rodriguez said, "We told the guys to keep up the intensity level but not to take any real risks; just play good, sound, fundamental football and definitely stop the penalties. We felt we had the game in hand, but needed to continue playing smart. To a certain extent we did that but not as well as we would have liked."

WVU received the second half kick-off and Kay Jay Harris took control. The Mountaineer tailback ripped off runs of 18, 12 and 31 yards that, along with a Marshall run of seve yards, put West Virginia at the JMU 5-yard line. From there, Marshall hit true freshman receiver Brandon Barrett in the end zone for Barrett's first touchdown reception as a Mountaineer.

The teams then traded possessions before JMU mounted its lone offensive scoring drive of the day against the Mountaineer defense's second unit, as the Mountaineer coaching staff began pulling starters to give more WVU players valuable playing time. LeZotte completed 3 of 5 passes during the drive that started at the WVU 46 after a fumble by the Mountaineers' Jason Colson. On third and goal from the WVU 10-yard line, LeZotte hit Dukes tight end Sean Connaghan over the middle for the touchdown that brought the score to 48-14 with 2:45 remaining in the third quarter.

The final Mountaineer touchdown came with 11:45 remaining in the final period of play, as reserve tailback Fred Little scored from three yards out following a 32-yard gallop by Phillips that made the eventual final score 55-14.

"I give Coach (Mickey) Matthews and his team a lot of credit," said Rodriguez when asked about the Dukes' effort on the afternoon. "A lot of people thought we would win this one going away, but his guys fought hard the whole way and continued to give great effort, even when the score got a little out of hand. That says a lot about his team and I'm sure they'll turn the corner soon."

Matthews was highly complimentary of the Mountaineers in the visitor's locker room following the blowout. "We knew we'd have to play a perfect game, or close to it, to even stay in the game with West Virginia and that didn't happen. They're a legitimate Top Ten team. They have no weaknesses anywhere – offense, defense or special teams. Marshall is the real deal, so is Henry, Harris ... they're loaded at every position with truly outstanding players. They're unbelievably conditioned and very strong, especially up front [offensive and defensive lines]. We've played some other Division 1A teams the last few years and West Virginia is every bit as good as any of them we've played. I can see them in a BCS [bowl] game at the end of the year, no question about it."

West Virginia will now begin preparations for their encounter next Saturday with Virginia Tech in sold-out Lane Stadium in Blacksburg. The game has been moved to a 7:05 PM start to accommodate network television.

"We have great respect for the Virginia Tech - their coaching staff, their fans – the whole program," said Rodriguez of the much-anticipated match-up with the recently departed former Big East conference foe. "We know they'll be ready for us and we know what kind of a hostile environment their place can be, so we'll do our best to be ready for them. It should be a great game for the fans. We'll tee it up and see what happens."

Drive charts and game stats

DISCLAIMER: The contents of this article are intended for entertainment purposes only. The author has created detailed statistics including each drive's time of possession, yardage, key plays, etc. for each game in order to make this fantasy series of WVU game outcomes as realistic as possible. The author assumes no responsibility for any errors or inconsistencies and has produced the series strictly for the enjoyment of Mountaineer football fans during the agonizing summer months without WVU football.


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