for this game

WVU tops Marshall in storm-shortened opener

Sep 5, 2011 - 4:39 AM Morgantown, WV (Sports Network) - A severe storm shortened the season opener between West Virginia and Marshall on Sunday, with the 24th-ranked Mountaineers earning a 34-13 victory in Dana Holgorsen's head coaching debut.

Mountaineer Field was twice evacuated due to lightning in the area, and there was 14:36 remaining in regulation when officials finally ended things at 10:24 p.m. (et), nearly seven hours after kickoff.

According to a joint statement issued by the athletic directors of both schools, the decision to stop the game was made after consulting the commissioners of the Big East and Conference USA, as well as the medical staff of both teams.

The decision was "based on the pending weather forecast, as well as the physical and mental fatigue of the student-athletes," the statement said.

The first delay lasted three hours after a WVU touchdown -- Tavon Austin's electrifying 100-yard kickoff return late in the third quarter.

Geno Smith passed for 249 yards and two scores for the Mountaineers (1-0), who elevated Holgorsen to head coach a year early following the resignation of Bill Stewart in June.

"I'm proud of the kids as far as how they handled the situation," said Holgorsen. "I'm glad it turned out the way it did. ... It would have been hard for those kids to go back out there after eight hours. I think common sense takes place at some point."

Marshall (0-1) is winless in 11 meetings against West Virginia, a series known as the "Friends of Coal" Bowl.

The Thundering Herd, looking to rebound from a five-win campaign, got off to a quick start when Andre Booker returned a punt 87 yards for a touchdown for the game's opening score.

But true freshman Rakeem Cato was unable to get much going under center, throwing for just 115 yards on 15-of-21 efficiency.

West Virginia got on the board late in the opening stanza via Tyler Bitancurt's 27-yard field goal, and Smith hit Ivan McCartney over the middle for a four-yard, go-ahead score early in the second.

The Mountaineers converted four third-down tries on their next possession, and the 13-play, 62-yard march ended with Stedman Bailey hauling in a 15-yard TD on a deep slant.

Bitancurt and Tyler Warner exchanged field goals of 43 and 24 yards, respectively, heading into the break.

Midway through the third, the Herd had 1st-and-goal from the three-yard line but wound up settling for a 21-yard Warner field goal.

Austin returned the ensuing kickoff 100 yards, first turning it up the left sideline, then weaving between defenders and past the kicker at midfield en route to the highlight-reel score.

The skies opened up from there, and Marshall went three-and-out after play resumed.

Soon after WVU's Vernard Roberts ran for a one-yard score on the second play of the fourth quarter, officials evacuated the stadium for a second time because of an impending storm.

Game Notes

West Virginia has won eight straight season openers....Marshall head coach Doc Holliday spent 23 years as a Mountaineer assistant...Tron Martinez led Marshall's ground game with 76 yards on 10 carries...Bailey led all receivers with 76 yards on five catches.