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Big East had a good first week of the season

MORGANTOWN - The Big East Conference just completed what could be its best opening weekend ever.

All eight teams won in non-conference games. In 2000, the teams were 6-0 in non-conference play, but West Virginia defeated Boston College in a conference game.

This season, No. 24 WVU beat Marshall 34-13, Louisville beat Murray State 21-9, Rutgers beat North Carolina Central 48-0, Syracuse beat Wake Forest 36-29, Connecticut beat Fordham 35-3, South Florida beat Notre Dame 23-20, Pitt beat Buffalo 36-16 and Cincinnati beat Austin Peay 72-10.

USF won the only road game and Syracuse won the only other game against a BCS team. Rutgers, Louisville and UConn beat Football Championship Subdivision teams. The Mountaineers were the last team to play, and Coach Dana Holgorsen was able to keep track of his new conference opponents.

"I followed that pretty closely and watched all the teams as much as I could when they were on TV and was impressed," he said. "I think on the outside looking in the past several years, the thing I knew about it was everyone was pretty good and periodically you'd have a great team and there have been some great ones make some pretty good runs. But over the course of the years, it's been about parity. Look at this weekend and the Big East goes 8-0, I think that says something about the parity of the conference."

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RECEIVER TAVON Austin was named the Big East's special teams player of the week Monday. He returned a third-quarter kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown.

He returned one 98 yards for a touchdown against UConn as a freshman in 2009.

Austin also returned three punts for 46 yards, including one 22-yard return. He was the only WVU player to field a kickoff or punt against the Thundering Herd.

Holgorsen characterized the junior's play as on offense as "really poor."

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JUNIOR COREY Smith's first career punt traveled 55 yards, but did more harm than good for the Mountaineers. The high spiral in the middle of the field pushed Marshall's Andre Booker back to his own 13-yard line, but he returned it 87 yards for a touchdown.

"The ball didn't go exactly where we wanted it to and the guys on coverage were playing catch-up," Holgorsen said. "It got to the point where they were a split-second late. They got one out on us, but their scheme was good. Give them credit for that."

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RECEIVER RYAN Nehlen and running back Andrew Buie both had their first career starts Sunday, but also had to leave the game with upper extremity injuries. They were to be evaluated Monday.

Nehlen banged his head trying to make a reception in the first half. Buie was hit hard on a six-yard loss on a reeception in the third quarter

"He took a shot that welcomed him to college football, which was a receiver breakdown," Holgorsen said. "(The receiver) didn't get his guy blocked and (the defender) shot through the gap and ended his day early."

Holgorsen said the first concern was a broken collarbone, but that worry was quickly eliminated.

"I don't know what the timetable is, but he'll be fine," Holgorsen said.

Buie, a true freshman from Jacksonville, Fla., carried 15 times for 30 yards and caught four passes for 11 yards.

"He had some negative plays, but that was more scheme than him," Holgorsen said.

"He's got some juice and he's going to touch the ball a lot. He's going to be a good player. He's just young."

Sophomore running back Trey Johnson (knee) and junior running back/fullback Shawne Alston (neck) didn't play. Alston's injury has bothered him since spring practice and could continue to keep him out, but Holgorsen was hopeful Johnson could return soon.

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THE MOUNTAINEERS used 55 players against Marshall, including just five true freshmen: Buie, running backs Dustin Garrison and Vernard Roberts, cornerback Avery Willians and safety Shaq Petteway.

Along with those five, linebackers Josh Francis and Taige Redman, cornerbacks Ishmael Banks and Cecil Level, safety Wes Tonkery, holder Michael Molinari, offensive linemen Quinton Spain and Nick Kindler and receivers Willie Milhouse and Devon Brown all made their WVU debuts.

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THE MOUNTAINEERS play host to Norfolk State at 1 p.m. Saturday. Former WVU offensive lineman Pete Adrian is the NSU head coach. Former defensive lineman Mark Thurston is the defensive line coach.

With no school Monday, WVU reviewed film in the morning and went through a workout. The team is off today and will practice Wednesday and Thursday in short preparation for the Spartans.

"We need to get (the Marshall) game over with, which will be very important," Holgorsen said. "Everyone knows this: Teams show all their improvement in the first three games."

Contact sportswriter Mike Casazza at or 304-319-1142. His blog is at



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