MORGANTOWN - It was game day.
The sea of cars with WVU flags moved into Touchdown City. The ticket scalpers were stationed at interstate exits. Beforehand, the Mountaineer players were fired up, the chest bumps were aplenty.
The band was strutting. The cool temperatures were perfect for college football.
And there were expectations - of the high variety.
Shortly before the season began, West Virginia star tailback Noel Devine said to expect fireworks from the Mountaineer offense.
On Saturday, there were spinners and sparklers. Devine finished with 111 rushing yards and a touchdown. The Mountaineers wore down an overmatched Coastal Carolina team and won 31-0.
But it wasn't exactly the Fourth of July.
It was instead, perhaps appropriately, a laboring day at times for the Mountaineer offense.
Yes, WVU finished with 400 total yards. But the Mountaineers' opening Big South victim last season, Liberty, defeated the Chanticleers by 58-13 in 2009.
"I thought our offense misfired early,'' said WVU coach Bill Stewart. "I don't want to make excuses for [quarterback] Geno [Smith], but this was his first complete game and he's a sophomore.''
Smith wasn't bad. Not at all. He completed 20-of-27 passes for 216 yards in what seemed to be a purposefully controlled offensive attack.
There simply weren't the Roman candles one expected.
"A lot of times we were so close,'' said WVU left tackle Don Barclay. "A lot of times there was like one more block to bust out longer runs, like Noel did at the end.''
In the end, Devine broke a run off for 39 yards to the 4-yard line. It was his game long. But for his career, Devine entered the game averaging over 6 yards a carry. Against Coastal, he averaged 4.8. It was somewhat odd because one imagined WVU's offensive line, which returned almost every starter, would be more impressive. At least against the Chanticleers.
"I mean, I thought we made some progress,'' Barclay said of the line. "At first, we took 16 plays [on the initial scoring drive]. We just kept sustaining it. We never stopped. We gave Geno some good protection. He didn't get hit that much at all.''
In fact, he wasn't sacked once. Heading into the season, pass protection was a concern from the unit.
"We made some steps forward,'' Barclay continued. "We just have to work on sustaining our blocks. Maybe get that extra block. Then Noel will get more longer runs.''
Of course, WVU wasn't showing all its cards. Stewart and company had to think they could simply overpower the visitors. Also, the coaches wanted to allow Smith to wade in, rather than dive.