Men At Work

An expected weak point for No. 5 West Virginia had a surprisingly solid performance Saturday in the 42-10 season-opening win over Marshall.

Safeties Quinton Andrews and Charles Pugh combined for nine tackles and the game's lone turnover in two first-time starts. They held Marshall's passing attack to 168 yards and, with Pugh at bandit in place of the injured Ridwan Malik (hip strain; out this weekend against Division I-AA Eastern Washington as well), limited tailback Ahmad Bradshaw to 70 yards on 18 carries. Pugh, a sophomore, had seven tackles – three of which were solo – which left him just two shy of All-Big East linebacker Boo McLee as the team and game leader with nine.

"That was just me playing football," Pugh said. "I feel that if I get out there and just start playing I can be pretty good. I felt real confident, and I was actually surprised at how easy it was out there."

Pugh also showed good instincts in the passing game, where he is asked to bring pressure, cover tight ends and wide receivers and man various zones as a sort of all-encompassing player. The bandit position showed little letdown, though Pugh, who had two personal foul penalties last year on special teams, got flagged on the first kickoff when he tried to break up a fight between the Herd bench and cornerback Vaughn Rivers. It was one of four personal fouls in as many plays to start the game, which ended with more than 200 yards in penalties, but seemed to settle nicely after the first 10 minutes.

Andrews came up with the defensive play of the game when he intercepted Marshall quarterback Bernie Morris on a snap from the WVU 39-yard line involving a pattern down the middle of the field. The pick was big because the Herd was beginning to build momentum, having scored their first touchdown and blocked a West Virginia field goal to end the first half before holding the Mountaineers to a three-and-out on the initial possession of the third quarter. MU had driven 28 yards and began to find an offensive rhythm with Bradshaw running for gains of nine, five and nine yards, among others. Morris had also completed a 10-yard pass in the push, and the potential for a tight game was there should the Herd have scored to pull within 28-14.

"I tried to bait him a bit to get him to throw it because I knew I was in good enough position," Andrews said. "When he was throwing it I just felt I had to go break on it. I wanted to get a few more yards for the offense, but I got caught (on the return). I had to bait him into a situation where he thought he had an advantage. I closed in on it and that's what happened with the interception."

Andrews' 14-yard runback was highlighted by a solid collision with Bradshaw, who made the tackle on the play. The headhunting free safety lowered his shoulder into the sturdy, slick tailback, and both players went to the turf after bouncing five feet off each other.

"The whole game I was trying to get a pretty good shot on him because he is a small back, but he is really tough and he was running really hard," Andrews said. "A guy like that, you want to get a hit on him early to try and start softening him up. He kept going harder as we played, so I wanted to hit him when he came up on me."

Seven plays and 66 yards later, West Virginia had turned what could have been a two-possession game into a 35-7 rout when fullback Owen Schmitt plunged in from three yards out. The drive took another 3:18 off the clock and, more importantly, essentially sealed the win and quenched any MU comeback thoughts.

"That's huge," linebacker Jay Henry said. "They were driving the ball on us and to get a turnover like that turns momentum around. That's a big-time play right there."

West Virginia apparently had added motivation. A Huntington rubber company allegedly manufactured rubber disks with the Flying WV logo on them. The Marshall players reportedly used them as urinal cakes during game week. Two calls by to the company were disconnected by it when it was discovered what the call was concerning.

"They called us out," Pugh said. "All week, some of the things they said in the papers and things. They were peeing on our logo all week. They had them made up for them to do that. We felt disrespected, and we wanted to make a statement early. I am sick and tired of them doing that to us and our logo. We took it personal."

And handled it professionally. Their were no letdowns in the game – West Virginia calls them ‘loafs' – and the lone defensive issues, according to coordinator Jeff Casteel, were jumping offsides and a few mental miscues for new players. Tackling was also especially solid. The Mountaineers, because of inexperience and their youth, stuck with basic packages for most of the game but still managed to get off the field on third down, allowing just five Herd conversions in 11 tries. The early personal foul also hurt.

"We have to get away from that," Henry said. "Guys were flying around early and playing well, but getting personal fouls and things like that, that's not how we play at West Virginia. It was typical first-game stuff, but we have to work past that."

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