We had been led to believe that the offense that new West Virginia University head football coach Dana Holgorsen would employ lightning strike like plays. That may be true, and probably is, but it was Mother Nature’s lightning strikes Sunday that played the biggest role in West Virginia’s season opener against Marshall. After over four hours of weather delays, because of heavy thunderstorms, the game was called a 34-13 WVU victory. There was 14:36 left on the fourth quarter clock.
The first suspension of play came with 3:59 left in the third quarter. Marshall had cut the WVU lead to 20-13, but Tavon Austin returned the ensuing kickoff 103 yards to take the Mountaineers to a 27-13 lead. That is when the evacuation of the stadium was ordered.
The evacuation was a good call, because when the storm hit, it hit with lightning strikes very close to the stadium, hail and rain coming down as hard as can be imagined. Unfortunately not enough time was allowed topermit all the fans to get to dry ground, so there were some very wet people as a result. ESPN was reporting a fan had been struck by lightning in the stadium, but that report proved to be false.
At one point the game was to resume at 8:05 p.m., over two hours after the initial stoppage, but another round of lightning pushed the start back to 9 p.m. This time the game was able to resume, but only after 4:25 of the game clock had elapsed. That was long enough for West Virginia to extend the lead to 34-13. About an hour later officials from both schools agreed to call off the game with WVU getting the victory.
One Huntington scribe reported that the decision process between WVU athletic director Oliver Luck and his Marshall counterpart, Mike Hamrick, was less than amicable. So far there has been little or no corroborating reports to support that writer’s claims. Hamrick did not seem angry when he was interviewed on ESPN about the decision. Even so, we all know there is some discontent between the Marshall and WVU athletic departments regarding the continuation of the series after next season, so the process could have had some interesting moments. Stay tuned.
Thoughts on the game and the WVU team are positive for the most part. Geno Smith can flat out throw the ball and he has some guys to throw it to. Marshall found some soft spots in the middle of the WVU defense a couple times, but Jeff Casteel’s unit kept the Marshall offense out of the end zone. Marshall’s touchdown came on a punt return and it should be noted that WVU’s kick coverage was less than impressive.
Also needing work, and this is a broken record, is the offensive line. The Mountaineers needed 26 rushing attempts to net 42 yards and Smith made some great throws with defenders in his face all day. Before burying the O-line, and that won’t happen today, it should be pointed out that running backs Andrew Buie and Vernard Roberts are true freshman and likely missed a few cuts. Smith may be guilty of holding on to the ball a little too long. Marshall has a couple players up front on their defensive line too.
The line looked bad on Sunday, but they are going to have a chance to make a big improvement in the coming weeks, and all that looked problematic Sunday may not be entirely the line’s fault. With that said, without some major improvement any 10-2 prediction made before the season started will be very difficult to attain.