Marshall Drops Season Opener 69-34

Special to HuntingtonNews.Net
Marshall Drops Season Opener 69-34

MORGANTOWN, WV – West Virginia’s high-powered offense proved to be too much for Marshall as the Thundering Herd fell to the Mountaineers 69-34 in its season opener Saturday in front of 59,100 fans at Milan Puskar Stadium.

It was the final game scheduled in the Friends of Coal Bowl series and improved WVU to 1-0 on the season and dropped Marshall to 0-1.

Marshall put up 545 yards of total offense, thanks to a standout performance by sophomore quarterback Rakeem Cato, who completed 38-of-54 pass attempts for 413 yards and two touchdowns. It was the first time a Herd quarterback passed for over 400 yards since Bernard Morris went for 417 in 2007 against New Hampshire.

However, WVU totaled 655 yards, led by the senior tandem of quarterback Geno Smith and wide receiver Tavon Austin. Smith was accurate the entire game completing 32-of-36 pass attempts for 323 yards and four touchdowns while rushing for 65 yards. Austin caught 10 passes for 53 yards and one touchdown while rushing for 76 yards on three attempts.

“They are a tough offense to defend,” said Marshall head coach Doc Holliday, “and we didn’t do a very good job of it today.”

WVU also got quality production out of running back Shawne Alston who carried the ball 16 times for 125 yards and two touchdowns.

“They were able to run it and able to throw it, and unfortunately did both,” Holliday said. “We have to get out there and show some aggression.”

Senior Aaron Dobson led the Marshall receiving corps with 72 yards on four catches. Sophomore Eric Frohnapfel was Cato’s most popular target, catching six passes for 60 yards and one touchdown. There were 13 different Marshall players that caught at least one pass.

WVU needed just over four minutes to jump out to a 13-0 lead as it followed a 94-yard scoring drive – including a missed extra point – with a 67-yard drive.

After the Herd defense stopped a fourth-and-goal attempt by the Mountaineers, Marshall’s offense got on the board. Sophomore running back Travon Van capped a 14-play 98-yard drive with a four-yard touchdown run as the Herd trailed 13-7 with 11:16 remaining in the first half.

The Mountaineers answered right back with a five-play 68-yard drive in just under two minutes to extend their lead, 20-7 with 9:25 to play in the half.

Marshall started the following drive with a 40-yard pass from Cato to Dobson which led to a 34-yard field goal from sophomore kicker Justin Haig and trailed 20-10 with 7:11 left in the half. However, WVU scored quickly on its next two drives, including a big 70-yard rush from Austin, to take a 34-10 lead into halftime.

With WVU leading 41-10 after a touchdown on its opening drive, Marshall received a boost from its special team’s squad on the Mountaineers’ second drive of the half. With WVU being forced to punt from its own 16-yard line the Herd’s C.J. Crawford blocked the attempt which was recovered by Gator Hoskins at the WVU 9-yard line. It led to a three-yard touchdown run from Van as the Herd trailed 41-17 with 8:00 to play in the third quarter.

From that point, Marshall was outscored 28-3 over the next 10 minutes of play and trailed 69-20 before scoring two late touchdowns.

The loss dropped Marshall to 0-12 all-time against WVU.

The Herd will host Western Carolina in its home opener next Saturday at 7 p.m. The game will be televised on Fox College Sports.

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