Graham knew the WVU offense and became the Tulsa coach in 2007, after a season as the Rice coach. He hired WVU's offensive line coach, Herb Hand, as his co-offensive coordinator in 2007. Patterson was inclined to change the way his defenses read and reacted to shotgun running attacks.
"Because of the misdirection," he said. "For example, if you're looking at a back going one way and all of a sudden the two guards are pulling and going the other way, you're in trouble. But because of the shotgun, we changed what we keyed on to make plays."
Patterson won't share the details, but what the offensive linemen do matters. Over the years other defenses learned to do the same to better contest shotgun running games.
"Going under center changes all the keys again," he said.
Holgorsen has operated from under center more than his reputation reflects. His teams at Texas Tech and Houston could do it, though he didn't do it much during his season at Oklahoma State in 2010 and was rarely under center last year at WVU.
Cowboys quarterback Brandon Weeden broke a thumb early in 2010 and couldn't comfortably take the sharp snaps under center. Oklahoma State did most of its work from the shotgun and Holgorsen preferred that style with his first WVU team.
"Looking back, last year it would have probably been beneficial if we did it a little more than we did," Holgorsen said. "Geno's good at it."
WVU ran notable plays from under center against Marshall, beginning with a game-opening reverse to Tavon Austin and all three plays the first time the offense was inside the Marshall 10-yard line. That included Alston's short touchdown run. WVU thinks going under center will most help short-yardage and goal-line plays.
"When the quarterback is under center, you have greater vision," running back Andrew Buie said. "Geno's not standing right in front of you or right next to you when he gets the snap. The defense has more to look at, too."
Yet the Mountaineers proved capable of passing from under center, too. Smith misfired on a play-action pass intended for a wide-open Stedman Bailey before Alston's score. Smith and backup Paul Millard completed short fade route touchdown passes that started under center.
"The snap gets into Geno's hands quick, which means he's getting it out of his hands faster," Dawson said. "It works really well for play-action and for our quick game, which is a lot of what we do. It's stuff Geno's good at, so we like that."
Contact sportswriter Mike Casazza at mi...@dailymail.com or 304-319-1142. His blog is at blogs.dailymail.com/wvu.