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Coal Bowl: There's plenty of recall with Coal Bowl

MORGANTOWN - West Virginia University's fight song "Hail, West Virginia" was composed in 1915.  

In that football season, the Mountaineers trounced Marshall 92-6. The next week WVU blanked Virginia Tech 19-0 for a two-game point total of 111.

In 1951, the Mountaineers scored 113 combined points in consecutive games when it recorded back-to-back shutouts: 24-0 over Richmond and 89-0 over Geneva.

That 113-point two-game performance was equaled in 1989 when WVU routed Cincinnati 69-3 and outgunned Boston College for a 44-30 win in the next game.

After January's memorable 70-33 Orange Bowl juicing of Clemson and Saturday's 69-34 Friends of Coal Bowl finale win over Marshall, West Virginia's new standard for points in consecutive games is a whopping 139.

That one pesky point. Social media platforms could've been inundated with photo-shopped speed limit signs once again. But, alas, Tyler Bitancurt missed the extra point on the first of WVU's 10 touchdowns (scored by eight players), which ultimately prevented his team from duplicating the big 7-0.

"Eight?" second-year West Virginia Coach Dana Holgorsen responded when a media member told him about the number of players who reached paydirt against the Herd.

"That's pretty good. It should've been nine."

That comment highlights Holgorsen's dry humor more than cockiness, but Saturday it seemed like he could've had quarterback Geno Smith put any point total on the scoreboard, provided the kicker cooperated. Holgorsen also lamented a fourth-down-and-goal call that robbed his team of 3 additional points with seconds left of the first quarter.

Holgorsen admitted he should've opted for the field goal. Bummer.

The 69 points is the most Marshall has ever allowed in a season opener and ranks as the fifth-most allowed by the Herd ... ever. Marshall allowed 94 points to Denison in 1917; 92 to WVU in 1915; 81 to WVU in 1923; and 70 to Marietta in 1909.

The Coal Bowl concludes with the Mountaineers holding a 12-0 edge in the series, and they have three of the top five point totals ever produced against Marshall.    

The seven Coal Bowl meetings had an average margin of victory of 22.4 points, a figure skewed slightly by the 2010 come-from-behind overtime win by WVU (24-21). The other six contests were decided by an average of 25.7 points.

Smith, who was 32-for-36 passing Saturday, helped WVU establish a Mountaineer Field record for total offense: 655 yards. The team fell 19 yards shy of the program's all-time mark for total offense (674 yards), set in 1923 against Washington & Lee.

Saturday wasn't all bad for Marshall, which played a significant role in the 1,200 yards of total offense in the highest-scoring game in the 32-year history of Mountaineer Field at Milan Puskar Stadium (previous record: 90 points, 2005 - WVU 46, Louisville 44, triple overtime).

MU second-year starting quarterback Rakeem Cato threw for 413 yards, the 18th-best total in program history. That's also the top single-game passing total ever for a Marshall sophomore and the most yards a Herd QB has ever thrown for against BCS competition.

Herd quarterbacks have thrown for 400 yards against East Carolina, VMI, Western Carolina (twice), Northeast Louisiana, Central Michigan, Appalachian State (twice), Buffalo (twice), Delaware, Akron (twice), Troy State, Furman, Toledo (twice), New Hampshire, Virginia Tech, Temple, Kent State, Eastern Kentucky, Ball State and, now, West Virginia.

Byron Leftwich threw for 406 yards against the Hokies in 2002. Leftwich also saw the end to his single-game regular season record for completions (37). Cato went 38-for-54 in his 10th career start. He was one of three Football Bowl Subdivision quarterbacks to surpass 400 yards in college football's opening week.

For more perspective on the "other" quarterback at Mountaineer Field on Saturday, consider this: Smith's top passing performance as a sophomore was 352 yards. He didn't eclipse 400 yards until the fourth game of his junior season (463 vs. LSU).

Think Cato will have fun in the coming weeks? He'll get FCS member Western Carolina in the home opener this Saturday, and Rice (Sept. 29) and Southern Mississippi (Oct. 20) in three of the next six games. It's a small, one-week sample, but Rice and USM would've ranked last and next-to-last if not for WVU carving up Marshall's defense.

Southern Miss allowed 632 total yards of offense to Nebraska. Rice gave up 646 yards to UCLA.

Western Carolina's lone FBS opponent last season, Georgia Tech, racked up 662 yards of total offense against the Catamounts to open 2011.

West Virginia scored a measly 110 points in its final four Big East games last season, causing some to wonder if the Orange Bowl was more fluke than the future.

Smith is 64-for-89 passing for 730 yards, 10 touchdowns and no interceptions in his last two games. He had just four incomplete passes and WVU punted only twice against the Herd.

In the past eight quarters, WVU has 20 touchdowns (18 offensive, two defensive) against seven punts.

No flukes here ... and that goes for Cato, too.


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