Originally created 08/20/04

West Virginia to rely more on QB's legs



MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - No. 10 West Virginia has had a running back rush for 1,000 yards in eight straight seasons. It might be time for a quarterback to lead the way for a change.

The elusive Rasheed Marshall is now the focal point of the offense as the Mountaineers go for a second straight Big East title and their first Bowl Championship Series berth.

The Mountaineers are looking for the senior to return to the form of two years ago, when he broke Michael Vick's single-season league record for quarterbacks with 666 yards rushing.

"I hope he gets 1,000 yards," West Virginia quarterbacks coach Bill Stewart said. "That would be a great goal."

No Mountaineer quarterback has ever done that, and with plenty of talent surrounding him, Marshall may not need to. But he's ready.

"I'm always trying to climb the ladder," Marshall said.

With only two experienced quarterbacks last year, the Mountaineers tried to protect Marshall.

Quincy Wilson got most of the carries while Marshall had 72 fewer than the year before. He was limited to 303 yards and four rushing touchdowns.

"All these quarterback running plays are the same, but they are being called more now," Marshall said. "We would use them in practice in the past, then in the game they weren't called. This year I think we will call more of them."

If that happens, the career records of other shifty signal-callers could be within reach.

Marshall needs 383 rushing yards to break Donovan McNabb's Big East QB record of 1,561.

A much loftier achievement is the school career record of 2,161 set by Major Harris, a fellow product of Pittsburgh's Brashear High School.

Harris led the Mountaineers to an 11-0 regular season in 1988.

"People are starting to see me as Rasheed Marshall and not Maj," Marshall said. "Now the questions don't come up as much. I guess I got my point across."

Marshall would need 983 rushing yards - 47 more than Harris' single-season school QB record - to break Harris' career mark and possibly put himself in select company.

Only seven Division I-A quarterbacks have thrown for 4,000 yards and rushed for 2,000 in their careers.

Among them are Harris and Clemson's Woody Dantzler.

"I don't know about repeating anything or any kind of stats. I just want to play this season and enjoy it," Marshall said. "Whatever happens to this team, I am responsible."

West Virginia coach Rich Rodriguez, who was Clemson's offensive coordinator during Dantzler's sophomore and junior seasons, is concerned more about Marshall's throwing than his running.

"He's got to get better with his accuracy and making better decisions in the passing game," Rodriguez said. "I'll be shocked if Rasheed doesn't have a great year."

First, Marshall must avoid injuries that have hampered him each season.

He broke his right thumb in West Virginia's spring game when his hand struck a defender's helmet. He missed one game last year with a concussion and parts of two others due to injuries.