West Virginia starts the year 1-0, following a strange, storm-shortened game over fake rival Marshall. The final score was 34-13, but may have been worse if the fourth quarter was actually played. A few hiccups here and there, but overall, a pretty solid performance for Dana Holgorsen's crew.
Most Valuable: Geno Smith. The junior quarterback looked confident in Dana Holgorsen's system. He completed 26 of 35 passes for 249 yards and two scores. More impressive though was the movement in the pocket. Smith was elusive all day on his feet, even picking up two first downs on scrambles. The quarterback is proving that he is a beast to try to bring down, almost Ben Roethlisberger-like. His decision-making was solid as well, choosing the right receiver time and time again. He played conservatively, and it paid off.
Least Valuable: The Offensive line. Coach Holgorsen praised the Marshall front a ton after the game, and certainly they deserved it. However, the Mountaineer line was a disaster. They would have struggled against a Division 3 team. They created very little space for the running backs, and Geno was on the run the entire time. Is Marshall front better than advertised? Sure. But, it's not like we are talking about Pitt or LSU here. This group must get better.
Most Surprising: Lack of ground game. The rushing attack was abysmal on Sunday, making the Mountaineers fairly one-dimensional. And, there's plenty of blame to certainly go around. The offensive line was the biggest issue. The boys were getting thrown around by the Herd, not giving time for the play to develop. Even when there was some space, Andrew Buie was either too slow to hit the hole, or too indecisive. The wideouts didn't do their part either, struggling a bit blocking on the outside. The team averaged just 1.6 yards per rush on the game. There was a bit of a consolation with the touchdown run before the second suspension of play, but it doesn't make up for the entire night.
Least Surprising: The Defense. Who cares if you lose most of your starters from a year ago. If you have Jeff Casteel, you can be confident that 11 guys will be on the field, and will keep you in the game. The pass rush wasn't great. There were a few long runs. But, overall this group only allowed six points in a little over three quarters of play. Not bad for a few returners and a bunch of newbies. I would especially like to point out Pat Miller, who struggled mightily at the corner position last year. The kid played with a great level of confidence on Sunday, and really established himself as the number two.
Play of the Game: Tavon Austin's Kick Return. Just when Marshall was believing they could hang in this game, Tavon breaks their ugly, green back. A one-possession game would have been much more interesting going into the suspension of play. However, that would not be the case. Austin didn't have the best offensive night (dropped two balls) but still had the most important play for the Mountaineers.
Quarterback: Geno was solid in the new system debut as written above. A few kinks to iron out, but overall he will be fine.
Running Back: Yes, not a lot of space to work with, but still didn't take advantage of the opportunities. The starting job is also still wide open.
Wide Receiver: A good debut for the group. A few dropped passes, but also sue nice catches, including two in the end zone. Nine different Mountaineers had a catch in this game. That's what you call solid depth.
Offensive line: A game to forget for the big boys. No push on run blocking, and Geno was constantly on the run. This group must get better as quickly as possible.
Defensive line: Not a bad debut for the boys up front. Helped slow down the run, and finished with a sack. Though, the pass rush will have to get better moving forward.
Linebackers: A good debut for mostly new starters. A few long runs were given up, but overall, this unit helped the Mountaineers keep the Herd offense out of the end zone.
Secondary: A few long passes, but a solid job none-the-less. The unit played very nicely in the redzone, even breaking up a potential touchdown pass. Look for the confidence to rise in this group.
Special Teams: Tyler Bitancurt was perfect on the night, two field goals and four PATs. Corey Smith averaged 50 yards a punt. Tavon Austin scored on a kick return. However, the group gave up a punt return for a touchdown, and struggled to contain Marshall's returners. Mixed results certainly.
Coaching: A promising start to the Dana Holgorsen Era. The offense sputtered at times, but still put up 34 points in a little over three quarters. The defense did its job, though the special teams needs some help. But, overall a satisfactory win for West Virginia.