When redshirt freshman safety Quinton Andrews intercepted Herd quarterback Bernard Morris on MU's first series of the second half, West Viirginia punched in on a seven-play, 66-yard drive to make it 35-7 and seal the game. Fullback Owen Schmitt capped the push with a three-yard run up the middle to make the rivalry game a four-score romp with 6:54 left in the third quarter.
By then, the lone question was whether White would make the game the most accurate of his young career – he didn't, as a late incompletion to tight end Mike Villagrana made him nine of 13 – and if Slaton would again run for 200 yards. The sophomore did, piling 203 yards on top of his career-high, 204-yard MVP performance in the 38-35 Sugar Bowl win to end last season.
"The line and I had a good game plan coming in and we just executed," Slaton said of a WVU rushing attack that netted 312 of the team's 485-yard total. "I have been here a year and now know better what the coaches want. I make reads better and I recognize defensive schemes and what they are trying to do to stop me."
What Marshall did was play man-to-man on the outside, using as many players as possible to slow Slaton. It never worked from the start. Slaton paired his known speed with an emerging spin move and his noted strength to run rampant. He never broke a run longer than 20 yards, but had several in the teens, including one 16-yard touchdown. He was elusive and slick, and routinely added three and four yards to runs that seemed bottled. Combined with White's newfound penchant for the pass and ability to find Myles on two skinny posts in the end zone, Marshall's solid defense looked downright porous.
It allowed an average of 7.2 yards per play, surrendering 14 points in each of the first two quarters, which was largely when anyone even cared. By the time Schmitt punched in, the contest was signed and sealed by the legs of Slaton, the arm of White and the hands of Myles – and the big uglies up front that turned the Thundering Herd's beefy tackles into ground chuck.
"Anytime we run for over 300 yards, we have a shot," head coach Rich Rodriguez said. "Our o-line probably does more in a two-hour practice than most teams do in a week. They work for it. We aren't the biggest; in fact we might be the smallest in Division IA. But they take great pride in what they do and they have great strength and get good leverage."
That trifecta led to four ground scores and two more in the air. When Marshall was sufficiently beat up early, White found Myles for WVU's first and third scores. And when White's strained abdomen muscle resurfaced in the second half. Remington candidate Dan Mozes and Even an early injury to right tackle Damein Crissey (sprain, X-rays negative, but the ligament damage is unknown yet) didn't hurt West Virginia, which managed edges in nearly every statistical category, including five-plus minutes in time of possession.
"Those long drives are every important," Mozes said. "You practice that in our four-minute drill. It's basic running of the ball: execution up front and the running backs making the read."
WVU pieced together a 7:44 drive to end the game. It went 73 yards in 12 plays, and backup quarterback Jarrett Brown plunged in from the seven-yard line for the final score. By then, the Mountaineers were playing nearly all their backups, and even took the redshirt off freshman fullback/tailback Max Anderson, who carried twice in the final series.
Marshall's lone bright spot outside of its first drive of the second half was when it pieced together a second nice push on three next series. But a holding call followed by a low snap that resulted in a fumble inside the red zone killed the push. Anthony Binswanger's 43-yard field goal cut the lead to 35-10 with 1:45 left in the third quarter. The Mountaineers then stopped Marshall's last meaningful drive when it nailed Morris for no gain on fourth and two from the 27-yard line with 8:57 left. The only meaningful event afterward was Tito Gonzales' 45-yard catch on third down to setup West Virginia's last score.
"I am not happy with this game," Marshall head coach Mark Snyder said of his team's performance in its fourth straight loss. "We need to get back on the winning side. I don't see any positives with this game because there is a lot of work to do. We need to work on everything. I am not happy with the tackling. We just did not make plays."
West Virginia's initial score came on its first possession after it held Marshall to a three-and-out and, actually, to –16 yards on the drive. It took the Mountaineers seven plays to punch in. All were runs save the scoring strike to from White to Myles on a crossing/post pattern in the back of the end zone. Myles beat the corner from eight yards out and White delivered a strike right on his No. 7 for the 7-0 lead.
WVU then made it 14-0 after another three-and-out (six plays, seven yards to that point for MU) and a solid, 61-yard, seven-play series. Slaton ran four times for 44 yards on the drive – including the 14-yard scoring run – giving him 77 for the game in just two series'.
The Mountaineer front dominated Marshall's interior line, despite reports that MU's size would hinder Mozes' play. The lone negative was the injury to starting tackle Damien Crissey on West Virginia's first series. Ryan Stanchek started at left guard, and Greg Isdaner came in for Crissey after the foot sprain. Stancheck moved into Crissey's tackle spot after Isdaner came in to play guard.
Marshall got its initial first down on its third series, but then was again forced to punt. The teams then traded possessions with a lack of scoring for two series before WVU took a 21-0 lead on White's second scoring strike to Myles, this time from 18-yards away. That was setup by Tito Gonzales' 16-yard catch that was, after a review request from the press box, upheld. Myles made a great catch on the play, getting leveled by a Marshall defender, but maintaining possession and bouncing up quickly. It was his first career multi-touchdown game.
"I think we have both the run and the pass now," White said. "I just throw to who is open. I don't have a favorite target. All our receivers are athletic and can get open. They can go get the ball and they are not afraid to take a hit. They are hard-nosed players, because that is West Virginia football. That's how we play here."
Slaton went over 100 yards on the 12-play, 96-yard push, after which the Mountaineers led 21-0 with 5:17 left in the half. The sophomore tailback rushed for 140 yards on 21 carries in the first two quarters (6.7 ypc) and scored twice. White went nine for 11 in the first half for 123 yards, the two scores to Myles and a long pass of 23 yards. Myles had three grabs for 33 yards, and fullback Owen Schmitt proved an effective passing target, catching two for 28 yards and running over at least one defender on each reception.
Marshall, who was outgained 314-155 in the first half, answered with a touchdown (which was originally ruled incomplete, but overturned after being reviewed upon a challenge by the MU coaching staff), and looked to maintain momentum with a quick stop and resulting score. No such luck. The Mountaineers responded with an 80-yard, eight-play push capped by Slaton's second score on a 16-yard rush around end in which he was never touched. That was in contrast to several plays on which he used a new spin move to gain extra yardage after the hit.
"I feel that if all 11 of us execute, nobody can stop us," White said. "The receivers did a good job of working to get open, the line gave me a lot of time, and I used it. Steve ran hard. He is always going to do that. When you have speed like that, it is hard to stop or contain. I think those (spin moves) are new. That's a trick out of his hat."
The touchdown, which made it 28-7, was set-up largely by White's 23-yard pass to Jeremy Bruce on third and five at the WVU 25. The catch, across the middle, led to gains of seven and four yards by Slaton before White's keeper for 14 pushed the ball to MU's 27. A 14-yard pass to Reynaud led to Slaton's waltz into the end zone. It was West Virginia's fourth touchdown in five possessions.
Marshall went three-and-out on the next series, and WVU advanced the ball into field goal range with seconds left in the half before Pat McAfee's attempt was blocked. That segued into the second series of the second half, after Mu stopped WVU three-and-out. It began to build momentum with a solid drive before redshirt freshman free safety Quinton Andrews came up with the game's lone turnover. He broke on Morris' pass over the middle, intercepting it and returning 14 yards to kill the drive and Marshall's spirit. It turned what could have been a 28-14 game into a 35-7 laugher when the Mountaineers scored via Schmitt on the next possession.
"I kind of baited him," Andrews said of Morris. "I knew I had to get him into a situation where he thought he had the advantage. I just broke on the ball and it was right there. I think he thought he could get it in there. It actually was big in terms of momentum because they were driving on us."
The play was chippy early, with the teams combining for four personal fouls in as many plays to start the game. That eventually settled, and, other than Marshall's two pass interference flags when they could not cover WVU's wideouts, the play was clean and there were few late shots.
Morris finished with 168 yards on 12 of 22 passing and the touchdown to wideout Matt Morris. Ahmad Bradshaw, MU's slick back, ran for 70 yards on 18 carries, an average of 3.9 yards per tote. Morris added 47. The Herd had 11 penalties for 120 yards and got in the red zone just once.
Gonzales had two catches for 61 yards for WVU to go with the 431 yards of total offense provided by Slaton and White. Slaton has run for at least 179 yards in his last four starts. Mountaineer linebacker Kevin McLee led all players with nine tackles, with one for loss.
"Playing with those guys (White and Slaton) is making this the most exciting time around this area in awhile," Mozes said. "We are humble. Most of the time you come out of your first game and people are jumping around like crazy. But we know we have bigger and better things. It was a great game and a great team and a great win. But we are trying to focus on the next game."
Said Rodriguez: "We made a lot of mistakes. It was a typical first game, and I'm glad the Mountaineers came out on top. You worry in the first game about missed assignments, turnovers and penalties. We had a few missed assignments, but no turnovers. We did have a few penalties, so there are things to fix. But everything we did can be corrected.
Rodriguez did say that he would need to limit Slaton's carries. He rushed 33 times, second only to his 34 against Pitt last year. He also caught one pass for 12 yards.
"He is in great shape to handle that," Rodriguez said. "But that is a lot of pounding on a guy. I didn't realize he carried it that much until I hard the PA announcer say it. We have to be conscious of that."
Former coaches Don Nehlen and Bob Pruett were guests at the coin flip to start the game. The coin was a special one that had the helmets of both teams on it with "Friends of Coal Bowl Inaugural Game" and the date and location on it. WVU managed a 17:10 to 12:50 edge in time of possession in the first half. The Mountaineers ran 41 plays to MU's 28, and the Herd gained just seven first downs to WVU's 22.
Brown came on in relief of White with three-plus minutes left. He immediately hit Max Anderson for a six-yard gain out of the backfield to the MU two-yard line. Freshman wideout Wes Lyons' redshirt was also burned, as he played two snaps.
Notes: White's two TDs mark the first time he has thrown two in a single game. Slaton's 19 career TDs have all come in the last eight games. Marshall was the fifth multiple-rushing TD game for Slaton.
WVU has now won 37 consecutive games when scoring 30-plus points. The Mountaineers are 116-6-1 when scoring 30 or more dating to 1980. Thirty-four of those wins have come since 2000. WVU is also 27-4 in its last 31 games and has 29 rushing scores in its last seven games. It moves to 81-29-4 in season openers since 1891 and 89-18-16 in home openers in that time.
The Mountaineers play host to Eastern Washington next Saturday at 1 p.m. Marshall plays Hofstra.