Mountaineers storm to weather-shortened victory against in-state rival Marshall


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MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- The Dana Holgorsen era at West Virginia started with a win Sunday.

And lightning.

And drenching rains.

And weather delays of four-plus hours.

No. 24 West Virginia rolled out its new offense against Marshall and collected a 34-13 win at Mountaineer Field when the game was finally called at 10:24 p.m.

The first weather delay because of lightning occurred at 5:47 p.m. just moments after Tavon Austin scored on a 100-yard kickoff return late in the third quarter to take a 27-13 lead.

The stadium was evacuated for safety as the skies opened up causing a 3-hour, 3-minute delay.

After resuming at 8:50 p.m., with 4:59 to go in the third quarter, West Virginia got a key third-down sack from defensive end Bruce Irvin deep in Marshall territory. The Mountaineers scored on their next possession.

The game was postponed again at 9:06 p.m. because of more lightning and finally called.

As for a drastic change on the field for the Mountaineers ... they are getting there.

The offense worked on finding its rhythm and used more pass plays than run plays. West Virginia passed for 249 yards but had just 42 on the ground.

Using three- and four-receiver formations, quarterback Geno Smith completed 26 of 35 passes, threw two touchdown passes and rushed 7 yards on scrambles.

The West Virginia defense held Marshall to just 3 of 11 on third-down conversions, 187 total yards and two field goals.

West Virginia went three-and-out on its first possession then gave up Marshall's only touchdown on the ensuing punt to Andre Booker.

He returned the punt 87 yards with the help of a couple key blocks with just 3:42 elapsed in the first quarter.

West Virginia responded with a 27-yard field goal on its next possession and started moving the ball better by the end of the first quarter.

Ivan McCartney scored on a 3-yard pass from Smith 1:09 into the second quarter, finishing a drive that included a 15-yard screen pass from Smith to freshman Andrew Buie. That play gave West Virginia a first down on the 3.

Using three receivers and two backs, sometimes four receivers and just a tailback, West Virginia's offense started to move the ball.

Stedman Bailey scored on a 15-yard reception with 5:25 left in the half and Tyler Bitancurt kicked a 43-yard field goal to give the Mountaineers a 20-7 lead before the Thundering Herd scored on a 24-yard field goal.

Holgorsen showed some frustration with his team's first drive of the second half when Smith was forced to hurry a pass on third down. He threw incomplete to Tyler Urban, bringing on the punt team.

West Virginia came up empty on fourth-and-inches on its next possession and Marshall responded with a field goal to cut the lead to 20-13.

Austin then broke the game open with his 100-yard return with 4:59 to play in the third quarter. That's when the skies opened and the lightning flashed.

West Virginia's fourth quarter score was a 1-yard run by Vernard Roberts that capped a 54-yard drive.

NOTES -- Andrew Buie left the game with a bruise to an upper extremity during the weather delay. ... Running back Trey Johnson missed the game with an undisclosed injury. A sophomore, he was listed second on the depth chart behind Roberts. ... These two teams have played 11 times with West Virginia dominating the series. ... Sunday's game was televised to a national audience on ESPN. ... Fans were able to buy beer at the stadium for the first time. Sales closed with 7:30 to play in the third quarter, that was 2:31 before the first weather delay. ... The majority of fans left the game at some point before it resumed at 8:50 p.m.



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