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West Virginia beats Marshall in storm-shortened opener

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Geno Smith completed 26-of-35 passes for 249 yards and two touchdowns, leading West Virginia to a thrice-delayed, weather-shortened, three-quarter opening game victory over in-state rival Marshall, 34-13, on Sunday in Morgantown.

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (AP) -- Dana Holgorsen's offense showed some signs that it could match his wide-open philosophy before the sky turned ugly.

Severe storms caused No. 24 West Virginia's season opener with Marshall to be stopped twice Sunday night and, after a total of 4 hours, 22 minutes in delays, the game was halted for good with 14:36 left in the fourth quarter, with the Mountaineers declared a 34-13 winner.

A joint statement issued by the schools' athletic directors said the decision was made to stop the game following consultations with the Big East and Conference USA commissioners' offices and the teams' medical staffs. Player fatigue and the forecast for more storms also was a factor.

"It went exactly like we thought it would go tonight," Holgorsen said, laughing. "I'm proud of the kids (for) the way they handled this situation."

The game was first halted with 5 minutes left in the third quarter and play didn't resume for three hours.

Play was stopped again with 14:36 left. But another hour went by before the game was called off, giving Holgorsen a soggy, successful debut.

"I understand the situation," Holgorsen said. "Everybody wants to play a full game and everybody needs the snaps and it's the first game. ... I think common sense takes place at some point."

It was the latest game plagued by lightning and severe storms on the first weekend of the season.

Michigan's game with Western Michigan was stopped for good late in the third quarter Saturday. Games at Notre Dame, Iowa, and Tennessee were delayed by lightning and Eastern Michigan pushed back its home game from Saturday to Sunday.

Marshall was limited to 13 first downs, 187 total yards and no offensive touchdowns. Any chance of a comeback was ended by a decision that was outside of the players' control.

"In 30 years, I haven't seen a thing like that," said Marshall coach Doc Holliday. "Unfortunately, that's what happened."

Despite difficulty running the ball, West Virginia improved to 11-0 against its cross-state foe, including six wins since the series resumed in 2006.

West Virginia's Geno Smith completed 26 of 35 passes for 249 yards, including first-half scoring tosses of 4 yards to Ivan McCartney and 15 yards to Stedman Bailey.

"At times, I didn't like our tempo and didn't like our aggressiveness," Smith said. "But I think the thing that I liked the most was they were all on the same page and knew what to do."

The offenses that Holgorsen built the past three years as offensive coordinator at Oklahoma State and Houston produced average scores of 58-9 in season openers.

On Sunday, the Mountaineers had plenty of offensive plays. It just didn't equate into that many yards, especially on the ground.

Now Holgorsen has a short week to figure out how what to tweak before Saturday's home game against Norfolk State.

"Marshall put a lot of pressure on us," Holgorsen said. "There were times that we didn't pick things up and there were some times where we didn't run our routes fast enough for Geno to get the ball out."

West Virginia freshman Andrew Buie got the start over three other running backs but was limited to a team-high 30 yards on 15 carries. He left in the third quarter after taking a hard hit, his arm dangling at his side.

On West Virginia's next series, freshman Vernard Roberts was stopped for no gain on fourth-and-1 near midfield. Marshall took over and drove inside the West Virginia 10 but settled for Tyler Warner's third field goal.

Tavon Austin extended West Virginia's lead on the ensuing kickoff, weaving 100 yards into the end zone to put the Mountaineers ahead 27-13.

After Tyler Bitancurt's extra point kick, play was stopped the first time as heavy thunderstorms moved in. Some in the sellout crowd gathered in the concourse, others went to a nearby indoor practice facility -- and a steady stream of fans got in their cars and left.

Roberts capped West Virginia's only possession after the first delay with a 1-yard score.

Marshall freshman Rakeem Cato was poised in his debut at quarterback but couldn't get the Thundering Herd into the end zone. He went 15 of 21 for 115 yards without an interception.

"I thought he did some really good things," Holliday said. "Number one, he didn't turn the ball over. I thought he handled the atmosphere well."

The Thundering Herd's lone touchdown came on an 87-yard punt return by Andre Booker to open the scoring. Booker was called to duty after Troy Evans, last year's regular punt and kickoff returner, was arrested earlier in the week on armed robbery charges.

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