MORGANTOWN - When veteran Steve Dunlap looks around the room these days, he doesn't see a lot of lifelong pals.
''That's coaching,'' he says.
Dunlap, West Virginia's special teams coordinator and outside linebackers coach who is in his 35th year in the business and 26th year at the school, is the lone holdover from last season's defensive staff. Among three different coaching stops at WVU, Dunlap dates all the way back to the Frank Cignetti years, when he began as a grad assistant helping with the linebackers in 1978.
''I was with Don (Nehlen) forever,'' Dunlap said. ''I thought I'd be here forever. Next thing I know, I end up in Syracuse and N.C. State (and Navy and Marshall) and whatnot. That's just part of the coaching ways nowadays. It's transient.
''Everybody tells you if you walk on high steel, you'll get paid a lot. But you'll fall off a lot, too.''
Today, the Hurricane native finds himself helping co-coordinators Keith Patterson and Joe DeForest transition the Mountaineers from a 3-3-5 stack to a 3-4.
It's no big deal, he says.
''I'm not trying to put it off as not important, but I've played every defense known to man and a couple extra,'' Dunlap said. ''I've been through this transition many times. There's fundamentals and basics techniques that go with any defense that I have a good understanding of, so it's not that bad for me.''
''Every one works a little bit different and every one has its weaknesses and its strengths. Really, it always come down to the players.''
The WVU defensive unit, which has a host of young players seeing action, showed against Marshall there's still work to be done. That was to be expected.
''You always have to take little steps before you take big ones,'' Dunlap said. ''Our job as coaches is to make them fundamentally sound, give them the basics. Like I always tell them, the most inexperienced player holds a spot. It takes 11 to win. We'll go as fast as that youngest player will let us go.''
Inside the box score
Taking a look back at the Marshall game, there are some interesting finds. Fans generally know West Virginia scored touchdowns on 10 of its first 12 drives - something that is mostly unheard of - but there was more. The odd part of the entire deal was throughout the first three quarters, where nine of the touchdowns were scored, the Mountaineers began somewhere around their own 28. The last three drives, which ended with a TD, a punt, and an interception, began on average on the Marshall 39. In other words, they prefer to take the long route.
Tavon Still Getting it Done
Since his scintillating performance in the Orange Bowl, Tavon Austin has found himself alongside QB Geno Smith in the Heisman Trophy discussion. Austin led the nation in all-purpose yards at 198 per game last season, so knowing where he is all the time is a must for opposing teams.
The Thundering Herd knew that, often choosing to kick away from Austin, but it did little to hurt his impact on the game. Austin had 66 rushing yards, 53 receiving yards, 35 in kick returns, and 19 in punt returns for 173. As the yards piled up at a Mountaineer Field record pace, five WVU players - Austin, Andrew Buie (135), Shawne Alston (123), and Stedman Bailey (121) all eclipsed 100 yards.
Smith's performance against Marshall, in which he accounted for five touchdowns, earned him this season's initial Big 12 Offensive Player of the Week award.
He completed 32 of 36 passes for 323 yards and rushed for 65 more yards and one score while playing just the first three quarters. He was also named Walter Camp National Offensive Player of the Week.
Redshirt freshman Isaiah Bruce, a redshirt freshman linebacker from Jacksonville, Fla., burst on the scene in a big way, as he finished his first collegiate game with16 tackles, including seven solo stops, and one for a tackle for a loss of 8 yards. He also scooped up a fumble and raced 43 yards for a touchdown in the third quarter. For his efforts, he was named the Big 12's Defensive Player of the Week.
''He's a smart kid,'' WVU head coach Dana Holgorsen said. ''When the referees were in here going over all of the rules he raised his hand three or four times and was asking questions. He's a smart kid, his conditioning is good, and it was a pleasant surprise, but he, along with everybody else, has a whole lot to work on.''
Jim Elliott can be reached via e-mail at:firstname.lastname@example.org