MORGANTOWN - It was generally accepted that lightning would strike at some point during Dana Holgorsen's debut as West Virginia's head coach.
This, however, wasn't what he or anyone else had in mind.
No, instead of Holgorsen's much-anticipated offense lighting up the scoreboard, it was real lightning - and rain and wind and even a bit of hail - that disrupted and finally aborted WVU and Marshall's attempt to play a season-opening game Sunday at Mountaineer Field.
After playing the better part of three quarters, the teams endured nearly 41/2 hours of weather delays and one brief resumption before the game was finally, mercifully called with West Virginia leading 34-13.
But that didn't happen until 10:24 p.m., six hours and 48 minutes after the 3:36 p.m. kickoff.
That's when the teams announced that they had decided, in conjunction with their conferences, to end the game and call it completed.
The lightning that initially altered the course of the game actually came in the form of two strikes - one figurative and one literal, but neither from a West Virginia offense that was solid but nowhere near spectacular.
Marshall, despite having been dominated for the most part on both sides of the ball, had drawn to within 20-13 with just over five minutes to play in the third quarter. It was about to become interesting.
But then in quick succession, two things happened - Tavon Austin returned the ensuing kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown that gave West Virginia a 27-13 lead. And seconds later, real lightning began to strike in the area near Mountaineer Field and the teams went to their respective locker rooms.
In the ensuing 41/2 hours, the teams would return to the field twice, once in an aborted attempted to resume play after just over two hours, then again about an hour later.
The second attempt succeeded, but only briefly and in front of only a few thousand of the original crowd of 60,758. There was enough action only to seal the deal before the game was called for good. A Bruce Irvin sack played a part in Marshall's three-and-out to start the game again, then West Virginia drove 54 yards in 11 plays to score on Vernard Roberts' 1-yard run and make it 34-13.
The teams left the field for the final time at 9:05 - 51/2 hours after kickoff - but it was another 79 minutes before everyone agreed to call it a night.
Austin's kickoff return came at just the moment West Virginia needed it most. The Mountaineers had dominated Marshall for much of the game to that point on both sides of the ball, but were clinging to just a 20-13 lead because of the Herd's own quick strikes. MU had scored on an 87-yard punt return by Andre Booker early in the game and a 25-yard Tyler Warner field goal at the end of a two-minute drive to end the first half, then chipped away with another Warner field goal following a failed WVU fourth-down attempt.
Austin's return - the first by a Mountaineer since his own against Connecticut here two years ago and the sixth 100-yard runback in school history - seemed to take all the air out of any Marshall hopes of a first-ever win over WVU. He took the ball 3 yards deep in the end zone, weaved his way quickly to about the 30, began cutting back against the grain to the middle of the field and then sprinted straight down the middle for the score.