Rushel Shell

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No. 12 West Virginia remains undefeated with 34-10 victory over TCU

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Skyler Howard threw four touchdowns to help lead No. 12 West Virginia (6-0, 3-0 Big 12) to a 34-10 victory over TCU (4-3, 2-2 Big 12) in Morgantown on Saturday. The win keeps the Mountaineers perfect on the season and continues to keep them atop the Big 12 standings with some key games still to be played.

West Virginia had a balanced attack on offense against the Horned Frogs. In addition to Howard tossing four touchdowns and passing for 231 yards in the win, running back Rushel Shell rushed for 117 yards. The defense (and special teams) came to play as well, forcing three TCU turnovers, including on the opening kickoff of the game to setup a quick touchdown. It was a rough start for visiting TCU, but they battled back before the game got out of reach in the second half. West Virginia pitched a shutout in the second half, while tacking on 13 points to pull away. TCU was able to convert just one of nine third downs and Kenny Hill averaged just 4.9 yards per pass attempt.

Is there any slowing West Virginia down? Maybe, but when? West Virginia takes their undefeated record on the road next week with a visit to Stillwater to play Oklahoma State. Then comes a home game against Kansas and a road game at Texas. All three are winnable, with only Oklahoma State expected to be the toughest challenge out of that bunch. The key still looks to be the final three games of the season, with home games against Oklahoma and Baylor with a road trip to Iowa State in between.

The Big 12 should be within reach, but could a playoff spot be in sight for West Virginia? The Mountaineers continue to climb their way up the rankings and fly under the radar. If the wins keep coming, that will not be the case for much longer.

TCU will return home next week to try and bounce back when they host Texas Tech.

2015 could be the year of the running back in college football

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College football has been a game for quarterbacks over the last decade or so, but the 2015 college football season could be a big one for the running backs. The young running backs that have taken the big stage during the 2014 season have shown glimpses of what could be one of the finest seasons for fans of the running game in quite some time.

Just look at some of the names coming back to line up in the back field with authority in 2015.

Now a couple of years removed from the SEC’s best quarterback class in some time, the SEC should be heavy on the run in 2015. The SEC’s leading rusher returning in 2015 will be Georgia’s Nick Chubb for his sophomore season, and LSU freshman Leonard Fournette could also be worthy of striking his Heisman pose. Chubb rushed for 1,547 yards and an SEC-leading 14 touchdowns this season, and most of that came while backing up Todd Gurley until he went down to injury. Fournette also rushed for over 1,000 yards, including 143 yards in a bowl game loss against Notre Dame. If you need more running power from the SEC, look no further than Arkansas with sophomore Alex Collins. Collins is coming off a 1,100-yard season with 12 touchdowns and should be a big piece of the offense for Bret Bielema in 2015. If there is one thing Bielema knows how to do, it is run the football. With Collins on the field, Arkansas will do just that. Alabama will look for a big year from  too. Henry was 10 yards shy of a 1,000-yard season but he did rush for 11 touchdowns for the Crimson Tide.

Up north, the Big Ten should continue to see plenty of production on the ground. In 2014 the Big Ten running game was the story with Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon earning a nod as Heisman finalist and Nebraska’s Ameer Abdullah a household name. But the Big Ten also saw great seasons from Indiana’s Tevin Coleman, Minnesota’s David Cobb and Michigan State’s Jeremy Langford. The Big Ten will lose all of these players to the draft, but there are some talented running backs ready to pick up the steam. Right now there is no hotter name among young running backs than Ohio State’s Ezekiel Elliott, who turned in a postseason run worthy of Mr. January consideration. Wisconsin has Corey Clement ready to be the next running back in line in Madison. Two other sophomores to keep an eye on in the Big Ten will be Michigan’s Derrick Green, who could have a big impact if he bounces back healthy in 2015, and Penn State’s Akeel Lynch if the Nittany Lions firm up on offensive line.

Move just west of Penn State and you may find the best running back in the state with Pittsburgh’s James Conner. The sophomore led the ACC in rushing with 1,765 yards and his 26 touchdowns were twice more than the ACC’s next leading rushing touchdown leader, Boston College’s Jon Hilliman (a freshman). Florida State’s Dalvin Cook could have a huge role in 2015 as well.

Out west it is easy to get caught up in the quarterback action in the Pac-12. This year was certainly the case with players like Marcus Mariota and Brett Hundley, but next year could see some big years from running backs as well. Paul Perkins of UCLA led the Pac-12 in rushing with 1,575 yards this season and will be back in 2015. So will Arizona’s Nick Wilson, the conference’s fourth-leading rusher as a freshman, and Oregon’s Royce Freeman. Freeman did not have a great championship game against Ohio State, but he should take on a heavy load without Mariota leading the offense in 2015.

The pass-happy Big 12 is not without some impact running backs in 2015 either. Oklahoma’s Samaje Perine led the Big 12 with 1,713 yards and 21 touchdowns as a freshman in 2014. Baylor’s Shock Linwood was second in the Big 12  as a sophomore with 1,252 yards and 16 touchdowns. West Virginia’s Rushel Shell is also capable of doing some major damage if the Mountaineers have more faith in him.

Quarterbacks will likely remain the face of many programs, but the 2015 season could be a huge season for the running backs.

Unable to cash in on turnovers, No. 10 TCU trails No. 20 West Virginia 13-7 at the half

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Under normal circumstances, turning the ball over three times – all in your own territory – in one quarter is an automatic death sentence against TCU. This, however, is not normal circumstances.

Playing its first game outside the state of Texas all season, No. 10 TCU trails No. 20 West Virginia and its swarming, aggressive defense 13-7 before a raucous Milan Puskar Stadium crowd on a rainy Morgantown day.

The Mountaineers built a 13-0 lead after marching 75 yards in 10 plays to open the game, capped by a 23-yard pass from Clint Trickett to Mario Alford. West Virginia then moved another 51 yards in 14 plays, but Dreamius Smith was stuffed on a 3rd-and-2 near the goal line, forcing a Josh Lambert 21-yard field goal. West Virginia then recovered an onside kick and turned it into a 44-yard Lambert field goal at the 3:52 mark of the first quarter.

TCU quelled thoughts of a blowout by responding with a six-play, 83-yard drive, punctuated by a 47-yard screen pass from Trevone Boykin to Deante’ Gray.

The Horned Frogs had plenty of chances to take the lead in the second quarter, but capitalized on none of them. The Frogs recovered a Rushel Shell fumble at the WVU 43, but lost three yards before punting. Chris Hackett intercepted Trickett and returned it to the West Virginia 21, but a chop block sabotaged the TCU possession. Later in the quarter Hackett forced a Wendell Smallwood fumble at the West Virginia 23,  but Boykin threw an interception two plays later.

Outside of the 47-yard touchdown, Boykin is 4-of-15 for 26 yards and an interception, and the TCU ground game has mounted only 56 yards on 13 carries. The Frogs have just five first downs and are 2-of-7 on third down.

West Virginia has managed 128 rushing yards and Trickett has thrown for 108 more.

TCU receives the ball to open the second half.

Trickett passes for 511 yards as WVU clips Maryland with last second FG

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West Virginia kicker Josh Lambert was one of two on field goal tries at Maryland n Saturday, but the one just happened to be the game-winner. Lambert’s 47-yard field goal as time expired gave West Virginia (2-1) a thrilling 40-37 victory over Maryland (2-1) in non-conference action. West Virginia  quarterback Clint Trickett passed for 511 yards and four touchdowns in the game and Kevin White led the way with 216 receiving yards.

Maryland was down 10 points entering the fourth quarter but stormed back in the fourth quarter with a 69-yard punt return by William Likely tying the game at 37-37 with plenty of time left in the fourth quarter. That was when the defenses for both teams managed to show up in a game that saw over 1,000 yards of offense between the two schools. West Virginia racked up 694 yards of offense to Maryland’s 447 yards.

Maryland quarterback C.J. Brown passed for 241 yards and led the Terrapins on the ground with 161 rushing yards and two combined touchdowns. Receiver Stefon Diggs was the leading receiver for the Terps with 127 yards and a touchdown. West Virginia running back Rushel Shell led the Mountaineers on the ground with 98 rushing yards. Mario Alford complimented White’s receiving production with 130 yards and two touchdowns. Eight different players caught a West Virginia pass and seven different players got a chance to run with the football. Maryland spread the ball around as well with five different players running the football and seven different players catching a pass.

Maryland will look to regroup next week against their brief former ACC rivals from Syracuse. Maryland will play at Syracuse next Saturday. West Virginia should be feeling pretty good about the offense as they open Big 12 play next weekend at home against Oklahoma. West Virgina will host the Sooners in a primetime match-up after Oklahoma faces Tennessee tonight.

West Virginia holds lead on Maryland following bizarre special teams play

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Have you ever seen a team score a touchdown off a kick-catch interference call? If you were watching Maryland and West Virginia, you nearly did. The Mountaineers have taken a 28-21 lead to the half in College Park, Maryland, but momentum seems to be solely on the side of Maryland.

West Virginia moved right down field on the Terrapins on the first drive of the game, using the quick release of quarterback Clint Trickett right away to catch the Maryland defenders behind a step or two. The first play of the game was a 50-yard pass play to Wendell Smallwood, with the majority of the yards coming after the catch. It took just two plays for the Mountaineers to get into the red zone, but West Virginia then took to the ground to push closer and closer to the end zone. Running back Rushel Shell took six out of the next eight plays needed to pick up the early touchdown, which came on a 4th and goal from the one-yard line.

This game has been all about West Virginian moving the ball through the air. Trickett is already has a 300-yard afternoon after passing for 307 yards and three touchdowns in the first half. He has completed 19 of 23 pass attempts in the process, using the deep ball and short slant passes without fail. A late half interception gave Maryland a chance to cut the deficit to single digits.  Kevin White leads all players with 116 receiving yards and Mario Alford has caught two touchdown passes for West Virginia.

Maryland’s Stefon Diggs took advantage of possible broken coverage in the second quarter to score a long touchdown to cut into the West Virginia lead. He absolutely should see more passes from C.J. Brown thrown his way. Maryland looked to have cut even more into the lead on a bizarre sequence on a punt return, but the officials took a score off the board. West Virginia was called for a kick-catch interference as Maryland called for a fair catch.

The ball was knocked loose and picked up by Maryland. As the play continued, with a penalty flag on the field, a Maryland player broke loose from two defenders trying to wrap him up and he raced to the end zone. The touchdown held until the officials gathered to discuss the ruling. Because a fair catch was called for, Maryland’s touchdown did not count because the ball could only be returned by the player calling for the fair catch. The good news for Maryland is they still ended the drive with a touchdown to make it an eight-point game at the half.