Date: Sunday, Sept. 4th , 3:30 P.M. televised on ESPN
Site: Morgantown, WV; Milan Puskar Stadium
Coach: Dana Holgorsen (1st Year)
Scouting the Mountaineers
Expectations offensively for the Mountaineers will be as high as they’ve been since the end of the Rich Rodriguez era. The most obvious returning offensive weapons are quarterback Geno Smith and receiver Tavon Austin. Smith threw for 2,763 yards and 24 touchdowns in 2010, but is even more suited for Dana Holgorsen’s offensive system. Austin brought in 58 passes for 787 yards and eight touchdowns a year ago.
West Virginia’s biggest question mark offensively is at running back after Noel Devine’s departure. A crowded group of players will be battling for playing time, but freshman Vernard Roberts earned the top spot in the spring with a late charge. That is by no means, however, set in stone. Sophomores Trey Johnson and Daquan Hargrett, along with newcomers Andrew Buie and Dustin Garrison all figure to be in the mix as well.
At the B-running back position, Matt Lindamood emerged from the spring atop the depth chart. However, both Shawne Alston and Ryan Clarke were the two originally expected to get the majority of the carries – both find themselves needing a strong preseason camp.
Overall, another key will be how the defense is able to withstand losing eight of its best players from a year ago – a group that ranked third in the nation in total defense and scoring defense. The core players on that side of the ball include Julian Miller and Bruce Irvin along the line. In the secondary, Keith Tandy and Terence Garvin bring the most experience. Pat Miller and Darwin Cook are a couple guys whose roles are expected to increase even more this season.
West Virginia leads the all-time series between the two teams, 10-0. However, last year, the Mountaineers needed a furious fourth quarter comeback to turn a 15-point deficit into a 24-21 overtime win.
Marshall’s last visit to Milan Puskar Stadium resulted in a 24-7 West Virginia win in 2009. Still, the Mountaineers trailed 7-3 at the break before pulling away in the second half.
The last time the two teams met on the first game of the year was back in 2006, a 42-10 West Virginia win.
2011 Mountaineer Schedule
Sept. 4 Marshall
Sept. 10 Norfolk State
Sept. 17 at Maryland
Sept. 24 LSU
Oct. 1 Bowling Green
Oct. 8 Connecticut
Oct. 21 at Syracuse
Oct. 29 at Rutgers
Nov. 5 Louisville
Nov. 12 at Cincinnati
Nov. 25 Pitt
Dec. 2 at USF