MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- If 2012 was the last time Marshall and West Virginia were going to meet on a football field, the two teams at least made it memorable.
The two teams combined for over 1,200 yards of total offense, and set a new single-game scoring record with 103 points, breaking a record set in 1915 when WVU beat the Herd in Huntington 92-6.
The final margin wasn’t quite that bad today although as opener’s go, it was bad enough as West Virginia beat Marshall in the opener for both teams, 69-34, at Milan Puskar Stadium in Morgantown.
Geno Smith hit on 32-of-36 passes for 323 yards and four touchdowns while WVU put up 331 yards on the ground in the win, and Mountaineer head coach Dana Holgorsen said it all starts with his senior quarterback.
“Geno has played very well the last two games, taking care of the ball and taking care of the offense,” said Holgorsen, looking at todays 35-point win as well as the 70-33 triumph over Clemson in the Orange Bowl back in January.
“Obviously, when you score this many points, you have to be playing good on all three sides of the ball.”
Shawne Alston rushed for 123 yards for the Mountaineers while Andrew Buie added 80 more on the ground in just six carries as the Herd could not slow any phase of the Mountaineer attack.
Tavon Austin rushed for 76 yards on three rushes, including a 70 yard scamper, caught ten balls for 53 more yards and a touchdown and returned three punts for 19 more yards.
“It was special to the kids to win this game, the final Coal Bowl for now,” said Holgorsen on the series which WVU leads all-time 12-0 and in the “Friends of Coal Bowl” series won every game since 2005.
Marshall was not without bright spots, especially on offense where sophomore quarterback Rakeem Cato was much improved over his debut here a year ago.
In that game, the Herd lost 34-13 in a storm-shortened game, Cato hit just 15-of-21 for 115 yards and no touchdowns.
Although storm clouds threatened this year’s game, Cato brought the thunder for the Herd.
He passed for 413 yards and two touchdowns in the game, hitting 38-of-54 passes and having only one interception, a ball that went right through the hands of tight end Eric Frohnapfel for a pick.
Still, the bottom line for Marshall head coach Doc Holliday is wins and losses, and the former WVU player and coach saw the game as a loss.
“They are a tough offense to defend,” said Holliday, “and we didn’t do a very good job of it today.”
“They were able to run it and able to throw it, and unfortunately did both,” Holliday said. “We have to get out there and show some aggression.”
Marshall's tight ends showed some aggression by coming up with 11 catches for over 100 yards after a slow camp.
Frohnapfel did lead the Herd in receptions, with six catches for 60 yards and an 11 yard touchdown for the final Marshall score of the game.
Tight end Gator Hoskins had two catches, and fellow tight end C.J. Crawford returned from a long injury-ridden August to make three catches.
But the Herd had trouble rushing the ball against the new 3-4 alignment of the Mountaineers, with 56 yards in the second half and only 132 yards on 45 carries (just 2.9 yards per carry).
Freshman Kevin Grooms led Marshall with 43 yards on five carries, all in the second half, and averaged 8.6 yards a carry, but against mostly WVU second team players.
Cato also found Miami Central and Marshall teammate Tommy Shuler five times for 47 ayrds and one score.
Huntington native Crawford had three catches for 48 yards, and also blocked a punt to set up a short touchdown run for Travon Van, the starter who rushed for 38 net yards on 16 carries (but losing 13 yards in tackles behind the line of scrimmage.
Marshall also lost a key player when right tackle Garrett Scott suffered what now appears not to be a broken leg in the first half. He was carted into the medical center at the stadium.
Scott was on crutches with a cast in the second half on the Herd sidelines, although it should be noted junior college transfer Gage Niemeyer was good in relief.
Also playing well at times was rush end Alex Bazzie, as the redshirt junior had 11 tackles (eight solo) in significant playing time, while Boston College transfer safety Dominick LeGrande led Marshall with 13 tackles, nine solo.
Sophomore kicker Justin Haig was perfect on two field goals, from 34 and 29 yards, and was 4-of-4 on extra points.
WVU kept return specialist Andre Snipes-Booker bottled up on kickoffs, as he averaged just 20 yards per return and had a long of 25 yards.
WVU needed just over four minutes to jump out to a 13-0 lead as it followed a 94-yard scoring drive – including a missed extra point – with a 67-yard drive.
After the Herd defense stopped a fourth-and-goal attempt by the Mountaineers, Marshall’s offense got on the board.
Sophomore running back Travon Van capped a 14-play 98-yard drive with a four-yard touchdown run as the Herd trailed 13-7 with 11:16 remaining in the first half.
The Mountaineers answered right back with a five-play 68-yard drive in just under two minutes to extend their lead, 20-7 with 9:25 to play in the half.
Marshall started the following drive with a 40-yard pass from Cato to Aaron Dobson which led to a 34-yard field goal from sophomore kicker Justin Haig and trailed 20-10 with 7:11 left in the half.
However, WVU scored quickly on its next two drives, including a big 70-yard rush from Austin, to take a 34-10 lead into halftime.
With WVU leading 41-10 after a touchdown on its opening drive, Marshall received a boost from its special team’s squad on the Mountaineers’ second drive of the half.
With WVU being forced to punt from its own 16-yard line when Crawford blocked the attempt which was recovered by Gator Hoskins at the WVU nine yard line. It led to a three-yard touchdown run from Van as the Herd trailed 41-17 with 8:00 to play in the third quarter.
From that point, Marshall was outscored 28-3 over the next 10 minutes of play and trailed 69-20 before scoring two late touchdowns.
WVU will be off this week before heading to FedEx Field in two weeks in Washington, D.C. to face head coach Mickey Matthews, the MU defensive coordinator from 1990-95, and his JMU Dukes.
Marshall will bounce back with an old Southern Conference foe, as the Catamounts of Western Carolina come back to Huntington for the first time since the mid-1990s, with former Marshall quarterback Eddie Sullivan in tow, for a 7 p.m. game next week in the home opener at the Joan C. Edwards Stadium.