Royal Review - Marshall Edition

In one of the warmest games that I can remember, the West Virginia University Mountaineers toughed out a 48-23 win over the Marshall University Thundering Herd. Here's my Royal 10 views of the weekend:

10. In the third quarter, when Marshall took a 16-13 lead, I looked over my row, and a young girl just happened to be wearing a shirt that read, on the back, "In Rod We Trust." I started to believe that everything would be okay as I thought – "In Rod We Trust", but just to be safe I threw in a couple Hail Marys.

9. We ran into Marshall defensive coordinator Steve Dunlap in the hotel Saturday morning as the Marshall team was preparing to load onto their bus. Understandably, he seemed a little uneasy. After a great playing career at West Virginia and then 17 more years as a coach, it seems he cannot escape playing his alma mater, first at Syracuse and now with Marshall. As always, Coach Dunlap did an admirable job. His scheme helped hold West Virginia to six points in the first half.

8. West Virginia had a couple Dingle-Berry moments in the game. In back-to-back plays in the 1st quarter Scooter Berry and Johnny Dingle made nice plays for losses. Of course, no West Virginia game is complete without Charles Pugh making another type of "dingle-berry" play – a personal foul. Pugh's roughness call with 1:44 in the third quarter was clearly out of bounds. The coaching staff must think very highly of his defensive ability to withstand his game-in-game-out personal fouls.

7. As the Pride marched into Joan C. Edwards Stadium prior to the game, and players were going out for warm-ups, they both had to walk on the same narrow sidewalk to get onto the field. Steve Slaton started to wait for the Pride to pass, but quickly realized it would be a long wait. Steve's solution was to jump in line with the band and act like a member rocking back and forth. The scene helped remind everyone that these players are still youngsters, and having fun.

6. Weir High product Zac Cooper is seeing increased playing time at linebacker. He appears to have a very good sense for the game, as he is nearly always positioned in the right place at the right time. He needs, however, to finish plays. Last week he positioned himself for an interception and it slipped through his hand. This week he nearly had the sack on the quarterback, but couldn't pull him down. On the next play he was in great position to make a tackle on a caught ball, but whiffed.

5. Last year West Virginia killed several drives with critical illegal precedure penalties along the offensive line. This year the line has held remarkably steady. Is this due to the new linemen meshing well, or to the presence of new offensive line coach Greg Frey? This year the Achilles heel appears to be dropped balls. Last week, there were four drops, and this week the same number.

4. The NFL addressed horse-collar tackles in 2005 and now the NCAA needs to do likewise. As Pat White scored a touchdown Saturday with 6:26 left in the third quarter, he was pulled down from behind in the end zone. Pat let the defender know that he didn't appreciate the tackle. This type of tackle really needs to be eliminated from the game, as it can seriously injure a player.

3. A four yard pickup is a good play. Unless West Virginia turns the game into the track meet, WVU's coaching staff (at times) and fans (very often) appear to quickly lose patience with the running game. WVU has some young linemen who need to work on the running game. With only six points in the first half, and numerous passes that were behind the line of scrimmage, WVU appeared to get away from the running game early on. The Marshall game was a perfect opportunity to establish the running game early. If the Mountaineers cannot run against Marshall how will it fare with a USC or an LSU? In second half the coaching staff appeared more committed to the running game, allowing the West Virginia offense to develop a rhythm. Some thought Steve Slaton did not play a very good game, but his 146 yards were very workman-like. The long runs will come, but the game has to be given a chance to develop.

2. I like that West Virginia struggled in this game and kept hammering away. If the Mountaineers would have simply blown Marshall out in the first half, I don't believe they would have been as prepared mentally for the Maryland game. This could serve as something of a wakeup call.

1. Lastly - the Mountaineers are one victory closer to playing the University of Southern California Trojans on January 7th in New Orleans.

See you in College Park, Maryland on Thursday night!

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