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Chuck McGill: Weekend of highs and lows for Mountain State football fans

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- In a 32-hour, 13-minute span starting last Friday at noon, yours truly saw eight quarters and three overtimes of college football in the Mountain State.

The back-to-back days of coverage - starting with Marshall's 31-point shellacking of East Carolina and concluding with WVU's season-ending whimper against Iowa State - began before dawn Friday. My wife and 21-month old son were in Pennsylvania to visit family, so there was a deep sleep to be had.

Instead, my peaceful slumber ended before the alarm sounded and I began perusing social media, as I am wont to do. My eyeballs skipped over most comments, but there was one Herd football supporter who provided an unsolicited challenge to the Marshall players.

"You are at the door men," the comment read. "Kick it in."

From noon Friday until 8:13 p.m. Saturday night, the sights were more than anticipated, little of which was expected. Walk with me through my weekend of numbers and observations.

  • In Huntington, Marshall (9-3, 7-1) captured the Conference USA East Division title in front of an announced crowd of 25,117 - 65.7 percent capacity at the 38,227-seat Edwards Stadium and the ninth-largest November crowd at the venue.
  • The standout individual performances were many in Marshall's 59-point outburst, but running back Essray Taliaferro and receiver Tommy Shuler pulled off a rare feat in Herdland. Taliaferro rushed for a career-high 161 yards and Shuler hauled in a season-high 147 yards on nine receptions, pushing both players over the 1,000-yard mark.
  • It is just the fourth time in the history of the Herd football program that a rusher and receiver eclipsed 1,000 yards in the same season, and only the third set of teammates to accomplish it. Running back Ron Darby and receiver Mike Barber did it in consecutive seasons (1987 and '88), while some guy named Randy Moss and running back Erik Thomas each hit 1,000 yards in 1996.

    Taliaferro and Shuler are the first combo to hit the 1,000-yard single-season milestone in the same season since the Herd jumped to the highest level of college football.

  • In Morgantown, the announced attendance of 33,735 was the third-lowest crowd all-time at Mountaineer Field, the lowest in 21 seasons and the worst turnout ever for a conference game. WVU fared worse than Marshall at filling the stadium, as the attendance was just 56.2 percent of capacity.
  • There were so many follies between Iowa State (3-9, 2-7) and West Virginia (4-8, 2-7) - including a delay of game after two timeouts, trick plays that seemed to hoodwink both teams, six turnovers, seven fumbles - that the individual performances seemed to get overlooked.
  • WVU receiver Mario Alford, who was the No. 1 junior college athlete when the Mountaineers landed his services, exploded for a career-high 215 receiving yards, the third-most receiving yards ever by a WVU receiver. Alford vaulted past four teammates to finish as the team leader in that category, and his 20.44 yards per catch ranks No. 6 nationally.

    Alford also had 311 all-purpose yards, which is the eighth-best single-game total in program history.

  • Two other offensive players, quarterback Clint Trickett and running back Charles Sims, made individual lists. Trickett's 356 passing yards is the 20th-best single-game total in program history, while Sims' 1,549 all-purpose yards this season puts him at No. 9 on WVU's single-season list.
  • Overall, the two games featured 183 points - somewhat surprisingly, not an all-time high for a single weekend of major college football in West Virginia - and 2,122 yards of total offense. The Mountaineers finished the season allowing 33.3 points per game, the second-most in school history behind last season's 38.1, the first time a WVU defense has allowed 30-plus points per game in consecutive seasons.
  • Whew.

    On the drive back down I-79, the thoughts danced back and forth between the two holiday weekend stops. The first concluded with former WVU player and coach, Doc Holliday, getting doused in Gatorade for the first time in his career. As he approaches Game No. 50 of his head coaching career in this Saturday's Conference USA Championship Game, Holliday has the Herd on the doorstep of national relevance again.

    Marshall garnered 13 points in the USA Today Coaches poll - tied with Iowa for No. 29 - and 10 points in the Harris Interactive poll - alone at No. 31. A 10- or 11-win season could be in the offing.

    Dana Holgorsen has lost 14 of his last 20 games. The win total has slipped by three each season under Holgorsen: 10 wins in 2011, 7 last season and 4 this year.

    It was 8:13 p.m. at Mountaineer Field when WVU lined up for the final play of the 2013 season. My view was from behind the end zone on the Puskar Center end of the stadium, and Holgorsen watched solemnly as the fourth-down attempt failed and the Mountaineers lost 52-44 in triple overtime.

    One last time, Holgorsen took off his headset - this time without anger or emotion - shook hands with Iowa State Coach Paul Rhoads and then stood in the end zone and stared at the scoreboard. So many times I've watched Holgorsen sprint toward the Puskar Center and disappear into the weight room, where he either gave assistants high-fives for a job well done or began to lament what had transpired.

    This time, however, the scene was different ... and a long ways from what was witnessed in Huntington. Holgorsen stood at the mouth of the home team tunnel as each player passed him.

    One by one, he shook hands and patted helmets until the last player - Dontrill Hyman - made it off the field. Then Holgorsen, flanked by two state troopers, put his head down and slowly walked away.

    It is difficult to stifle the urge to compare the two days, two games and two programs that are now in very different places.

    One kicked the door in. The other continued to bang its head against the wall.

    Contact sports editor Chuck McGill at or 304-348-7949. Follow him on Twitter @chuckmcgill.



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