Mountaineer Rewind: Geno Smith, West Virginia Edges Marshall in Overtime
As we continue to traverse these strange and trying times, I and the good folks at Mountaineer Maven are pulling some gems of yesteryear out of the vault. As far as near-heart attacks go, you'd be hard-pressed to find anything from West Virginia's last 25 years on the same level as the Mountaineers' 2010 trip down south to Huntington to take on Marshall.
As is now etched in stone, this game would serve as the platform upon which Geno Smith would emerge and begin his record-setting career at West Virginia. Though it wasn't solely Smith's emergence against the Herd that makes this game worthy of a bookmark, but how he engineered a late, come-from-behind performance that lifted the ranked Mountaineers over little brother to protect West Virginia's undefeated streak over their mountain state brethren.
Credit the late Bill Stewart for sticking with Smith, in only his second career start, despite some West Virginia's inability to hit pay dirt after multiple trips to the red zone. Marshall's defense, led by future NFL-er Vinny Curry, harassed Smith all night long, forcing the Mountaineers to rely on short passes and lean heavily on former star Noel Devine. At around the 10:20 mark in the fourth quarter, with Doc Holliday's Herd up 21-6, Smith coughed up a fumble at the West Virginia 15, forcing a collective sigh from Mountaineer nation. If the game seemed out of reach at that point, the desperation spreading across West Virginia's sideline would ultimately prove fleeting as Marshall's Tron Martinez would himself fumble just plays later on first and goal.
From that point on, it was Geno Smith's world.
The Mountaineers would cap the following drive with a Noel Devine touchdown at the 5:12 mark, cutting the lead to eight. From there, West Virginia's defense swarmed and Smith, buoyed by future legends in Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey, ultimately found Will Johnson and Jock Sanders on back-to-back plays for a touchdown and two-point conversion, respectively. Ultimately, West Virginia's Tyler Bitancurt would make good on his lone field goal attempt in overtime and Marshall, having just come off a 45-7 drubbing a week prior at the hands of Ohio State, would watch Tyler Warner's kick sail just right, sealing a painful home loss.
For the first time since its win over East Carolina a year prior, the Mountaineers produced a 300+ yard passer in Smith, who finished the day 32-45 for 316 yards. It wouldn't be until a year later when a cumbersome changing of the guard saw Dana Holgorsen supplant Stewart as West Virginia's head man that the era of air raid would begin in true. However, that night in Huntington would prove to be a small sampling of things to come. Austin, Bailey and J.D. Woods would all return for two more seasons and birth a goldmine of highlight reels.
While the game itself never yielded implications on a national scale (West Virginia would end its season losing to NC State in the Champs Sports Bowl and Marshall would miss bowling altogether) it would stand as the penultimate chapter in the now-defunct Friends of Coal Bowl which would conclude a year later in a 34-14 West Virginia win. When and if the two mountain state programs meet again is anyone's guess. While no one anywhere across Mountaineer fandom relishes the agony of near-defeats that extend beyond four quarters of play, it stands as one of the better match-ups in the series and gave the nation a glimpse at the aerial spectacle that West Virginia would patent for seasons to come.