West Virginia University’s Football Team beat Marshall 69-34 on Saturday as the Mountaineers proved to be an efficient offensive machine. WVU quarterback Geno Smith was a remarkable 32-36 passing for 323 yards and four touchdowns. His performance was good enough to have the talking heads gushing over him and many, if not all, putting him among the early leaders for the Heisman Trophy.
As solid as Smith was, he didn’t get his coaches award as the offensive player of the game. That honor went to senior running back Shawne Alston. Alston ran 16 times for 123 yards. A solid stat to be sure, but it was the 63 yards after contact that impressed the coaching staff the most.
Sophomore running back Andrew Buie had a solid day as well racking up 80 yards on six attempts.
One game is hard to go on, but with the powerful 6-0, 225 Alston pounding the rock and the more elusive Buie offering a nice change of pace, the WVU running game will have to be a concern for opposing defenses. If Dustin Garrison, who did not dress Saturday because of an off-season knee surgery, can return to 100% this running attack can only help Smith and receivers Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey continue to put up prolific numbers.
Alston is easy to root for, at least for yours truly. After a successful run with smallish tailbacks at WVU like Amos Zeroue, Avon Cobourn, Steve Slaton and Noel Devine Alston breaks that mold and gives this backfield a valuable extra dimension. I noticed his ability two seasons ago in Bill Stewart’s final season, but when the Dana Holgorsen staff arrived Alston had a nagging neck injury that put him on the shelf.
Alston missed spring ball and was limited in fall camp. Not only that, but based on what the new offensive staff saw from Alston’s sophomore year, it was felt that Alston may not be a good fit for the new offense. Alston persevered, working hard and getting healthy. When he got his chance last fall he delivered. After nearly being left behind last year Alston won over his position coach, Robert Gillespie, who said Alston’s ability and leadership, made him the clear number one coming out of camp.
Even with a 35 point win there was angst by many over the performance of the WVU defense. It is no secret that defense was the biggest concern coming into the season. Marshall racked 545 yards against the WVU defense and ran a whopping 101 plays. WVU ran 74.
Those numbers suggest a long season on the defensive side of the ball and that is probably going to be the case, but things may not be as bad as they seem. Two of Marshall’s touchdowns came after the score was 69-20. There is a lot of inexperience on defense, and some of these newcomers are going to improve, perhaps rapidly. This team is basically built to outscore teams, not stop them. When WVU scores quickly and often like they did Saturday, the opposing offense is going to have the ball a lot and put up numbers.
WVU fans should watch the scoreboard and forget the stat sheet, at least for now.