There were some anxious moments for fans of the No. 9 ranked WVU Mountaineers on Saturday afternoon.
But, thanks to Pittsburgh Pirates' reliever Joel Hanrahan many of those were forgotten as his bases loaded strikeout not only gave the Pirates a much-needed 7-6 victory over Chicago -- that snapped a long losing streak by the Bucs and handed Hanrahan his 35th save of the year -- and allowed the thousands of fans, who did not make the trek to FedEd Field in Landover, Md., a chance to see their beloved old gold and blue take on heavy underdog James Madison.
There were few other moments to fear, especially in the first half, as senior quarterback Geno Smith and company tallied touchdowns on their first four possessions and the defense played well enough to hold the Dukes to a 33-yard field goal by former-WVU walk-on Cameron Starke.
But, there were a few hiccups that will give head coach Dana Holgorsen and his staff some much needed teaching moments as they prepare to play host to Maryland at noon next Saturday at Milan Puskar Stadium.
One of those hiccups occurred when senior punter Corey Smith dropped back to attempt his first boot of the game. A kick which traveled only 24 yards giving the Dukes a first-and-10 at the WVU 43.
It was the first, and only, time JMU's offense crossed midfield during the game's first 30 minutes of action.
The hiccups continued as the second half got under way as a decision to go for a first down on a 4th-and-2 from the JMU 49 came up one yard short again giving the Dukes' offense, which had struggled to get anything going up till then, a short field from which to begin their first drive of the second half.
The No. 6 ranked (FCS) team took advantage, driving to the WVU 1. But, this time it was the Mountaineers' prevent unit's turn to 'make a play' as Darwin Cook made the stop on the fourth-and-goal play.
Cook's play returned the ball to Smith and his offense, but, one-play later, JMU's defense caught Shawne Alston in the end zone for the safety.
WVU's defense again found its back against the goal line on the Dukes' next possession, but Morgantown native Tyler Anderson put an end to that threat when he came up with a tipped pass in the end zone.
And, that would be the story of the second half of action as Smith eclipsed the 400-yard passing mark with touchdowns passes of 30 yards to Stedman Bailey and 7-yards to Tavon Austin.
For every bright moment, however, there were times when Mountaineer fans had to wonder if this team really is up to the task of playing in the Big 12.
But, before fans begin to discount the talent of this team, they need to understand the apparent strategy the coaching staff has been employing in WVU's first two games of the 2012 season.
Defensively, the coaching staff has played every player on its two-deep chart and beyond while the offense has jumped out to early advantages and then used that cushion to work on areas that could be important when playing against the likes of Texas or Oklahoma.
WVU will have one more 'warm-up game' when the Terps come to Morgantown and then the 'real' season begins seven days later when Baylor comes to town for the Mountaineers' first contest as a Big 12 member.
Contact Jim Butta via email at email@example.com