MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Perhaps too eager for his first touchdown at West Virginia, Rushel Shell launched himself atop the scrum and tried to extend the ball across the goal line.
Only it never got there.
Shell lost control in midair and fell into the pile, awkwardly trying to pin the ball against the side of his helmet. Towson came away with what should have been a fumble, though the on-field officials ruled the ball dead at the 1 where Shell’s forward progress had been stopped.
“I should’ve stayed low. I shouldn’t have tried to jump over,” Shell said after West Virginia’s 54-0 win Saturday night. “Coach Holgorsen doesn’t teach that. I knew I was getting taken out after that.”
Shell enjoyed an otherwise solid home debut, gaining 71 yards on 14 carries and racking up 47 yards on four receptions. He later punched in a touchdown the correct way, bulling in from 2 yards out.
“I’m going to remember this game for a long time,” he said.
Clay thought TD catch was good: The only morsel of controversy from West Virginia’s 54-point laugher involved Cody Clay’s overturned touchdown catch in the third quarter.
The junior from Alum Creek, after ducking into the flat on a fourth-down play from the 4, scooped Clint Trickett’s pass just inches off the turf and tumbled into the end zone.
As Trickett leaped into the air and Clay celebrated with teammates, West Virginia’s extra-point unit came on … at least until the replay booth intervened.
“I was so sure it was a touchdown, I was thinking why are they even reviewing this? They’re just wasting their time,” Clay said.
Replays showed the tip of the ball touched the ground after Clay squeezed the catch with both hands. The ball never appeared to shift as Clay landed and he said he didn’t lose control.
“There’s nothing I can do about it, but I mean, it was in my two hands,” he said. “I had it. And it was fourth down, one of the few drives we didn’t score on, so that sucks too.”
On a similar goal-line play, Trickett threw a low incompletion to fullback Eli Wellman in last week’s game.
“Clint’s trying so hard to get me and Eli a score that I think it’s making him nervous when we’re so wide-open,” Clay said. “As long as we’re winning, though, I’m OK with it. I don’t care if I don’t score any touchdowns as long as I’m doing my part and we don’t have another year like last year.”
No sugar-coating: Towson coach Rob Ambrose expected more fight from his team and vowed personnel changes during a tough-talking postgame exchange.
“I’m disappointed about some aspects, especially in the second half,” he said. “I asked the guys to play six seconds at a time. Tonight shone a light on guys that are willing to fight for their brothers. Some showed that the circumstances got too tough for them. We found out a lot about individuals on our team and also about who we will be in the future.
“We cleared up some of the fog of the fakers. We found out the guys who talk the talk that don’t walk the walk. They won’t see the field. We will play the guys that love football and love each other.”