James Madison-West Virginia Preview
After watching a dominant season opener, West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen isn't overly concerned that his players will be negatively impacted by an early bye week.
Coming off their highest-scoring opener, the ninth-ranked Mountaineers will meet James Madison for the second time Saturday at FedEx Field.
After capping its 2011 Big East championship season with a 70-33 Orange Bowl victory over Clemson, West Virginia (1-0) picked up where it left off offensively and began its first season as a member of the Big 12 with a 69-34 rout of Marshall on Sept. 1.
Senior quarterback Geno Smith completed 32 of 36 passes for 323 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions. Stedman Bailey had nine receptions for 104 yards and two scores and Tavon Austin caught 10 passes for 53 yards and a TD, while Smith also rushed eight times for 65 yards and a TD.
"Really pleased with how Geno played," Holgorsen said after Smith moved past Marc Bulger for the program records in completions (651) and passing TDs (60). "He's done a great job of taking care of the ball, a great job of leading the team."
While Smith grabbed the headlines with his brilliant passing performance, the Mountaineers actually had seven more yards rushing (331) than passing, led by Shawne Alston's career-best 123 with two scores.
"It's about as balanced as you can possibly be," Holgorsen said. "We spread the ball around to a lot of people."
Holgorsen is hoping to see the same type of performance from Smith and the Mountaineers when they get back to work in Landover, Md.
"You worry about having an off week this early in the year, and the guys losing routine," Holgorsen said. "That concerned me, but I like our team's mentality."
James Madison coach Mickey Matthews has to be especially concerned if Dae'Quan Scott, the Colonial Athletic Association offensive player of the week, can't play after suffering an ankle injury in last Saturday's 42-3 victory over Alcorn State. Scott, a junior, is the Dukes' leader with 180 rushing yards, 90 receiving yards and five total touchdowns.
"That would be like us being without one of our top guys," Holgorsen said. "There is nothing we can do to worry about that. We don't worry about injuries too much. We want to line up and play. He is a great player on tape. We are going to anticipate him playing. If he is questionable, we are going to anticipate him playing."
The Mountaineers' defense will also have to keep an eye on senior quarterback Justin Thorpe, who has helped the Dukes (2-0) score 97 points and rack up 1,018 total yards through two games.
Facing a team from the FCS likely won't give West Virginia a good gauge of how new coordinator Joe DeForest's 3-4 scheme will fare when conference play begins Sept. 29 versus Baylor, but the team would still like to see some improvement after giving up 545 yards in the opener.
Holgorsen expects that to happen after a "sloppy" second half against Marshall, but he's definitely not overlooking James Madison. The Dukes beat then-No. 13 Virginia Tech 21-16 on Sept. 11, 2010.
"We are going to be motivated this weekend," Holgorsen said. "We don't want them talking about us in that category on Saturday."
The Mountaineers, who went 3-0 in NFL stadiums in 2011, defeated James Madison 45-10 on Sept. 25, 2004, in Morgantown.