WVU notebook: WVU gets plenty of work on new kickoff rules
MORGANTOWN - Well, if nothing else, the new kickoff rules got quite a workout during West Virginia's 69-34 rout of Marshall Saturday at Mountaineer Field.
There were 14 touchdowns and two field goals, so added to the kicks to start each half there were 18 kickoffs. And they were certainly a mixed bag.
WVU's first two kickoffs from the 35-yard line (5 yards closer than in the past) went deep into the end zone and weren't returned, giving Marshall the ball at the 25 (a bump of 5 yards from the past). After that, there was a mix from both teams that more often than not involved trying to get high kicks that didn't reach the end zone.
No one had any breakaway kickoff returns, despite the fact that both sides have dangerous returners - WVU's Tavon Austin and MU's Andre Snipes-Booker. Booker returned six, but the longest was for 25 yards. Austin ran back just three, the longest 19 yards.
But at least Austin wasn't given many chances, with balls being kicked either away from him or well short of him.
"I don't mind. I kind of liked that, really,'' Austin said. "I think it shows that I've done some things in the past and they don't want me to do it again.''
Indeed, last season Austin's 100-yard kick return against Marshall was the game-breaker.
Dana Holgorsen certainly wasn't kicking himself for not scoring enough points, but he was angry at himself for costing the Mountaineers three.
West Virginia's No. 1 offense failed to score only twice in 10 possessions. It would have scored on seven in a row to start the game had Holgorsen not insisted on going for a touchdown on fourth-and-goal at the MU 3-yard line late in the first quarter.
"That was me being stupid and stubborn,'' Holgorsen admitted later. "We should have kicked a field goal. I cost us three points.''
That series also resulted in a rare scene - Geno Smith lining up under center instead of in the shotgun. He audibled at the line and took the snap and tried to squeeze through a momentary hole in the line, but was tackled short.
Marshall then took over at the 2 and drove 98 yards for a touchdown.
Smith is beginning to carve his name into the school's all-time records list.
He already dominates the single-season charts, of course, after setting marks for attempts, completions, yards and touchdowns passing in 2011. But now he's started erasing Marc Bulger's career marks.
On Saturday he passed Bulger for career completions (630). He also threw his 60th touchdown pass, which is one more than Bulger.
And in the next game or two he will pass Bulger in career passing yards. He needs 374 more yards, which should come against James Madison in two weeks or Maryland the week after that.
Smith has a way to go, though, for the career total offense record - 2,494 more yards. That one's not owned by Bulger, but by dual-threat quarterback Pat White, whose rushing yards far surpass any quarterback in school history.
BRIEFLY: Cody Clay, the George Washington grad, was a surprise starter in Saturday's opener. Clay was expected to play and did, mainly as a tight-end type who can line up as an inside receiver or in the backfield. Because the opening play was one in which he fills that role, he was in the lineup. ... Austin is getting close to the all-time record for career receptions. He has 184 and needs 23 more to pass Jock Sanders (206). ... West Virginia seemed well on its way to setting a school record for total yards in a game before letting off the gas. At halftime the Mountaineers had 413 and at the end of the third quarter 584. The record is 674, which has stood since a 1923 game against Washington & Lee. They finished with 655, gaining just 71 in the fourth quarter.
Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or email@example.com or follow him at Twitter.com/dphickman1.