With No. 4 West Virginia clinging to a 20-16 lead, Marshall – which had been utilizing a series of crossing routes and tight end patterns to harass the odd stack defense – suddenly switched into a power-I set. It was a significant difference from what the Mountaineers (2-0) had seen in the first half, and thus what they had prepped to defend in the latter 30 minutes. Herd tailbacks Kelvin Turner and Darius Marshall had ripped off to gains of seven yards, the last one off an option. MU ran Turner again, and he tore through the WVU defense for a 28-yard rush. In four plays, all running out of an I-formation with an emphasis on the fullback lead via the isolation play, the Herd had moved from its own three-yard line to their own 46.
West Virginia middle linebacker Reed Williams had twice seen the backs slide past him. The Moorefield native was flying into gaps early, allowing MU ball carriers to see the field and choose an alternative gap and route into the second level. That drive ended with a 34-yard field goal to push Marshall ahead 16-13 with 9:31 left in the third quarter, a disappointment considering the defense had the Herd hemmed in within nine feet of their own goal line. Williams and defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel talked about fitting up on the run better, and the brief Q and A session with the entire defense paid an immediate dividend.
Williams saw the power set again and drilled Marshall, shooting the gap before Marshall could even pick a hole. The ball popped loose, and free safety Ryan Mundy recovered, giving the Mountaineers, whose offense had just scored on its finest drive of the day to open the second half – possession at midfield.
"They had been hurting us on that power," said Williams, who finished with a game-high 8.5 tackles, including two for loss. "It was my fault. I was rolling over the top too early. We talked about it on the sidelines and got it fixed up. I shot the gap and ended up making a play. To be honest, I don't think we repped (MU's power sets) as much as we should have in practice. We prepared more for that spread offense that they had been running. We knew we had to deal with it, so we fixed it. I saw that play, that guy running past me again and again in my mind. I got my hand on the ball, I think."
He did, and when Mundy recovered, it was the start of West Virginia's second-half dominance.
"I saw the ball early," Mundy said. "It was a straight run up the middle. He was a young player and we knew he might have had a tendency to give the ball up to us. That is a credit to running to the ball. You run to the ball and good things will happen."
After the Mountaineers managed just 118 yards on 23 plays, including 46 yards on 12 rushes, it finished with 511 total yards to Marshall's 387. Better, it controlled the ground, and thus the clock, demoralizing the upset-minded Herd (0-2) and beating its instate foe for the seventh time in as many games. In all, WVU outscored Marshall 42-10 in the second half, ironically the same score of last year's game. The start of that was the drive before and after the fumble. But it was the turnover, the lone one of the game, that spurred the offense and gave West Virginia a much-needed points cushion. When WVU went ahead 27-16, it settled the green and white fans and the entire Mountaineer team.
Even when the Herd answered to cut it to 27-23, then forced a punt, the early tightness and panic were gone. The defense stuffed Marshall, turning a first and 10 from midfield into a fourth and 26 from the 50-yard line. After that punt and another WVU touchdown, a 34-23 lead sealed the game with more than 10 minutes left. The Mountaineers put in their substitutes, but still added 14 more points for the final tally.
"That was Mountaineer football there," quarterback Patrick White said. "The first half they outplayed us. We were not executing and they outplayed us. We came out in the second half and did a good job of coaching and adjusting."