Not to be confused with the Coal Bowl, the Friends of Coal Bowl has been all West Virginiain the nine meetings between the Mountaineers and Marshall. In the five meetingsprior to the establishment of the Friends of Coal Bowl, WVU had beaten Marshallby an average score of 50-10. The last four games have been slightly closer (35-11)with tonight’s match-up the closest since 1911.
For three and a half quarters it looked like Marshall University would steal theirfirst-ever victory against West Virginia. Ultimately, West Virginia would take theirfirst lead of the game during their first possession in overtime, and run away with itfor a 24-21 win and ownership of the Governor’s Cup.
With two 95-plus-yard fourth-quarter drives resulting in touchdowns and aconverted two-point conversion, the Mountaineers escaped with a victory over theThundering Herd Friday night at John C. Edwards Stadium.
West Virginia running back Noel Devine capped a 96-yard drive byscampering four yards into the end zone with 5:12 remaining in the game to bring thescore to 21-13.
Despite fumbling four times, Marshall limited costly mistakes, turning the ballover only once. But that lone turnover was the difference maker. Freshman Herdrunning back Tron Martinez fumbled and lost the ball on the WestVirginia four yard line with ten minutes to play. Instead of scoring a touchdownand going up 28-6, the Mountaineers’ ensuing drive resulted in Devine’stouchdown run.
The following Marshall drive lasted only four plays before Herd punter KaseWhitehead pinned the Mountaineers at their own two-yard line.
The entire game was a battle of field position. Whitehead had previously pinnedWest Virginia within their own five-yard line twice. The Mountaineersaverage starting spot was their own 26-yard line. As for the Herd, their averagestarting position was their own 31-yard line. Holliday once relied on his puntingunit rather than his kicking unit late in the game due to place kicker TylerWarner‘s career long of 37 yards.
Starting from their own two, the Mountaineers capped a fifteen-play, 98-yard drivewith a five-yard touchdown pass from Geno Smith to Will Johnsonwith just 0:12 remaining in the game. Wide receiver Jock Sanders hauledin the two-point conversion to tie the game at 21.
Earlier in the week, Marshall head coach Doc Holliday mentioned thatthis rivalry had not yet officially become a rivalry. “We have to win this gameat some point. For it to be a rivalry we have got to go win thatgame.”
Holliday is a former West Virginia assistant whom many thought shouldhave been named head coach upon current Michigan head coach RichRodriguez‘s departure from Morgantown. He has taken serious control of the program and has themheaded down the right path. They were embarrassed last weekend in a 45-7 loss toOhio State, but rebounded nicely tonight to almost beat a ranked opponent for thefirst time since 2003 (27-20 victory at Kansas State).
Once WVU started giving their playmakers the ball, they settled down. Star widereceivers Sanders and Tavon Austin caught eight of their combined 13passes in the second half, and Sanders added his two-point conversion catch as well.Devine added more than three-quarters of his rushing total in the second half andovertime period, along with his touchdown run.
In the overtime period, Mountaineer kicker Tyler Bitancurt added a fieldgoal on West Virginia’s first possession. When given the opportunity, Herd placekicker Warner failed to extend his career long to 40 yards, missing and losing thegame for Marshall.