Mountaineers Start Slowly Before Downing Dukes

West Virginia turned in a desultory performance in its 45-10 win over James Madison, but there weren't many happy words coming from either the coaching staff or the team after the game.

"It was a very uninspired game," head coach Rich Rodriguez said following the contest. "We just went through the motions, and I wasn't very happy with our intensity."

Rodriguez' comments were echoed, in various forms, by a number of players, including defensive lineman Ernest Hunter, defensive back Adam Jones, and quarterback Rasheed Marshall.

"I was talking to everyone the whole game," WVU's senior quarterback said. "When we went into the locker room at halftime, it was like we were losing, even though the score was 21-0. It was quiet, and everyone's heads were down."

The downturned heads and droopy demeanor were well justified, as the Mountaineers' first half play, especially in the first quarter, ranged from average to dreadful. WVU gained just 77 yards in the first quarter, and although James Madison didn't threaten either, the 0-0 count after the opening period had a number of the crowd of 56,609 growing restless.

WVU finally dented the scoreboard early in the second period, on a drive that began on its own 43. With James Madison playing nine men in the box, WVU was somehow able to put together a 14-play drive that ended in a Jason Colson one-yard touchdown run to put the Mountaineers up 7-0.

That series didn't break the Mountaineers out of the offensive doldrums, however, as the next WVU possession was a quick three play and out series where the Mountaineers failed to gain a yard. The Dukes then mounted their first serious drive of the game, moving to the West Virginia 28-yard line. A David Rabil field goal attempt from 44 yards away missed badly, and the Dukes' first scoring opportunity went by the boards.

The near miss seemed to light a temporary fire under the WVU offensive unit. Led by Rasheed Marshall's crisp passing, the Mountaineers moved to the JMU five-yard line, where on third down and two Marshall lofted a pass to Chris Henry in the left corner of the end zone for a touchdown. Henry set the play up beautifully with a drive inside before releasing toward the corner, and Marshall's pass was right on target for the 14-0 lead.

On the ensuing James Madison drive, the Mountaineer defense finally gave the home team some breathing room. Lawrence Audena stripped Dukes' running back Antoinne Bolton of the ball, and linebacker Adam Lehnortt scooped up the bouncing pigskin and returned it 21 yards for a score. The two touchdowns, coming just 14 seconds apart, provided one of the few sparks in an otherwise dreary first half.

West Virginia did come out with a bit more fire in the third quarter, something that hadn't been evident it the last two games against Central Florida and Maryland. The Dukes snapped the ball over the head of quarterback Justin Rascati on third down and one begging the question of why they were in the shotgun), and Boo McLee recovered on the visitors' 22. From there, it took WVU just three plays to score, as Eddie Jackson gained 15 yards on a reverse before Kay Jay Harris recorded one of his few highlights on the day with an eight-yard scoring jaunt.

The outmanned Dukes continued to fight, however, moving 52 yards in 13 plays before Rabil coaxed a 32-yard kick through the uprights for JMU's only offensive points of the game. On the drive, as on several occasions during the game, James Madison was able to run the ball successfully on first down against the Mountaineers' 3-3 stack defense. While JMU totaled just 74 yards on the ground, tailback Alvin Banks had some success, gaining 109 yards, most of them between the tackles.

WVU countered with a filed goal of its own, this one a morale-boosting 48-yard boot by Brad Cooper that restored the lead to 28 points. A Rasheed Marshall to Chris Henry pass completion of 19 yards was the key play of the drive, and the Mountaineers quickly followed that score up with another as the fourth quarter began.

After again forcing a JMU punt, WVU ripped off a 13-play scoring march that featured Marshall completions of 39 yards to Eddie Jackson, 14 to Jason Colson and 12 to Dwayne Thompson. Thompson's leaping catch put the Mountaineers at the one yard line, but three running plays went nowhere before Marshall's fourth down pass to Henry, again running a timing pattern, found the gifted receiver's hand to push the scoreboard to 38-3.

At that point, the Mountaineer bench began to empty, but the substitutes were determined to have their moment in the spotlight. Charles Hales, in the game at quarterback, his Thompson for 14 yards before Bryan Wright dashed 59 yards to the James Madison four. From there, Hales hit Brandon Myles with a touchdown pass on a play where Myles was uncovered until just before the snap.

With the score 45-3, the offensive action appeared to be winding down, but the Dukes got a bit of solace when Hales was hit by a blitzing Rodney McCarter and fumbled. Defensive lineman Brandon Beach picked up the ball and rumbled 35 yards for a touchdown, yielding the final score of 45-10.

Rasheed Marshall had another excellent game, completing 17 of 22 passes for 184 yards, two scores, and no interceptions. Marshall was sacked three times behind a line that again struggled, as it produced only 171 yards' rushing on 46 attempts. Henry caught five passes for 74 yards, and Jackson added two catches for 45. The running game was far less productive, as Harris was held to 63 yards on 22 carries, a 2.9 yards per carry average. Colson had a more efficient night, picking up 37 yards on just six carries.

West Virginia travels to Blacksburg, Va., next week to take on the Hokies, a 17-16 loser to North Carolina State on Saturday.

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