Marshall may have missed out on its best chance to get a win before the Friends of Coal Bowl series expires.
The Thundering Herd had not only their own fans but even some West Virginia supporters thinking the unthinkable during the first half of Saturday's game at Mountaineer Field.
Not only was Marshall in the lead, but West Virginia's only experienced quarterback, senior Jarrett Brown, was out for the rest of the game.
Mountaineer coach Bill Stewart had little choice but to give the ball to true freshman Eugene Smith. Here's a guy who hasn't been in camp long enough to get comfortable with the entire playbook and he gets thrown into the fire before a packed house in the state rivalry game.
But WVU's coaching staff did a good job of allowing Smith to simply manage the game without making him win it.
That task was put in the hands and legs of running back Noel Devine, who showed why he is a potential all-American, rallying WVU?from a 7-0 deficit to a 24-7 win, West Virginia's fourth win in a seven-year series that has three more games to go.
Given the comments of WVU Athletics Director Ed Pastilong, it appears this series may end when the contract expires in 2012. WVU is taking a hard line in any negotiations that Marshall must agree to play twice in Morgantown for every one game in Huntington.
Marshall is taking just as hard a line that isn't going to happen. Unless something changes, neither is another Friends of Coal Bowl after 2012.
I'm not sure that's going to bother supporters of either team. If the result isn't going to change, then the excitement over the series can't be maintained.
Following West Virginia's victory, the Mountaineers appeared in all three of the nation's major college football polls. WVU is ranked 22nd in both the Associated Press poll of sports writers and the ESPN coaches poll. It is No. 23 in the Harris Poll.
It's good to see the Mountaineers getting some national respect following a 5-1 first half of the season. The national media's stance has been that this is a program on the decline since the departure of Rich Rodriguez and the elevation of Stewart.
But Stewart is 15-5 as WVU's head coach, including two bowl wins (four if you count the Friends of Coal Bowl). Things aren't just going well on the field. Off the field, recruiting has been outstanding, as Mr. Smith reminded us on Saturday.
The second half of WVU's season will be exclusively against Big East opponents. It's perhaps the most wide-open conference of all the major leagues with Cincinnati, WVU and Pitt all capable of winning the league and teams such as South Florida, Connecticut and Rutgers capable of pulling off an upset on any given Saturday.
Only Syracuse and Louisville (talk about a program in decline) appear to fall into the category of those you should schedule for Homecoming.
Contact Dave Poe at firstname.lastname@example.org