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MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — West Virginia rode the one-two punch of running backs Rushel Shell and Wendell Smallwood to a commanding 31-0 halftime lead over Towson in the homer opener at Milan Puskar Stadium.
Shell started the party, shaking defenders left and right as he led the Mountaineers down the field on the opening drive of the game. Once inside the Tigers’ 15, West Virginia went to Smallwood once, twice, thrice and finally a fourth time until he finally plunged into the end zone.
Shell bullied his way in from two yards out early in the second quarter to put the Mountaineers up, 17-0. It was the Pitt transfer’s first return to the end zone since a score against Temple on Oct. 27, 2012. Shell had 13 first-half carries for 55 yard and made three catches for 29 yards. Shell had six carries for 17 yards and three catches for 55 yards.
Receiver Mario Alford added another dazzling touchdown to his highlight reel late in the half. One week after returning a kickoff for a touchdown against No. 2 Alabama, "Super Mario" Alford caught a touchdown pass from the seat of his pants this time. He tipped Clint Trickett's 1-yard pass but fell to the turf without it — until it fell right back into his lap. The Super Mario theme song pinged through the stadium loudspeakers as Alford trotted off the field.
Trickett capped the half by scrambling for a 5-yard touchdown run with 1:06 left on the clock. He finished 24 of 27 passing for 218 yards and a touchdown and had three rushes for 14 yards and a touchdown.
The Mountaineers are 14-0 against Division I-AA opponents, and it doesn’t appear that perfect record will be tarnished tonight in this first meeting against Towson.
Linebacker Wes Tonkery headed to the locker room in the second quarter and will miss the remainder of the game. Tonkery had five tackles in the first half. ... Root Sports tweeted this message at 8:58 p.m., late in the second quarter: "Our apologies to Comcast viewers in Morgantown & Wheeling-those areas are served by Comcast in Pgh & we will switch to WVU after the Pirates."
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TORONTO INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL, DAY THREE
How do you know you’re a star?
When you pick up the small pad of paper on a hotel table, draw during a roundtable interview with eight or so writers and someone asks for it and a signature as you’re finished. And then, when the original recipient is not looking, someone else rips it off the tablet, folds it and spirits it away. Not me either time.
That is what happened as Tom Hardy (the erstwhile artist) and Noomi Rapace finished their joint interview for “The Drop.” With her hair blond with a hint of pink streaks, braided and swept to one side, Rapace was a bundle of energy while a bearded Hardy – wearing a Velocity Systems T-shirt and jeans – seemed happy to allow her to field many of the questions.
They, along with Flemish actor Matthias Schoenaerts (“Bullhead,” “Rust and Bone”) and Ann Dowd star in the crime drama based on a Dennis Lehane short story. He wrote the novels “Mystic River” and “Gone Baby Gone” and turned his story into a screenplay.
“The Drop” is also notable because it is the final film made by James Gandolfini to be released. He died in June 2013 and last year at this time, there was much talk about Gandolfini in "Enough Said."
In “The Drop,” Hardy is lonely bartender working with his cousin (Gandolfini) in a Brooklyn bar that has been taken over by the Chechens and is part of a money-laundering drop scheme. Hardy’s character stumbles upon an abused pit bull puppy in a trash can and finds a woman (Rapace) to help him with the dog amid escalating threats, schemes and a couple of deaths.
Hardy, who Pittsburghers will remember vividly as Bane in “The Dark Knight Rises,” was asked about the role’s appeal and said: “I like dogs. I like New York. I like characters that are desperate and lovely and aren’t normally looked at under the microscope.”
They might reside in a world of hustlers, pimps, villains, druggies, losers. Rapace jumped in and added, “People on the edge. People that are not so successful, it’s not a happy-go-lucky group.”
Gandolfini’s character is no Tony Soprano. He lives with his sister, has an unseen ailing father in a nursing home and once had something and was respected and feared but no longer. The movie, opening Friday, ends with the note, “In loving memory of James Gandolfini.”
The top image shows the director, writer and key actors at a TIFF press conference while the poster on the easel was at a hotel where they met with writers in a separate session.
Overheard on the street: “Michael Douglas just walked by again. Isn’t anybody noticing this guy?”
A young woman handing out free TIFF daily sections – with Bill Murray on the cover – told that to another volunteer. By the time she said it, I didn’t see Douglas, who is here with a movie he produced and co-stars in, called “The Reach.”
It’s based on the Robb White book “Deathwatch” about a rich and powerful international businessman, Madec, who is hunting for a bighorn for his trophy collection and hires a young tracker as his guide through the “Reach,” a hostile desert basin. When Madec accidentally kills an old prospector and unsuccessfully tries to bribe the younger to dispose of the body and forget about it, deadly games begin.
And on the subject of Murray, it rained on his day (Friday was Bill Murray Day) – poured in fact, which was a relief after stifling heat and humidity -- but not his parade. Festivalgoers famous and otherwise turned out in vintage T-shirts and with Bill Murray masks on handheld paddles to salute him.
The day was capped with the premiere of “St. Vincent” in which he plays a nearly impoverished gambler, drinker and seemingly not very nice man (assuming a caller is a telemarketer, he answers the phone, “Come on coward, try to sell me something”) who becomes the caretaker -- for a new boy who moves in next door with his recently separated mother (Melissa McCarthy). He charges her $12 an hour, although he’s willing to knock that down to $11 if she provides snacks.
When Vinnie’s not browbeating his local bartender or trying to get McCarthy’s character to pay for the fence he knocked down when he backed his car into his driveway, he has a surprisingly tender side and “St. Vincent” is a showcase for Murray and a delightful introduction for young Jaeden Lieberher.
Group photo from "The Drop" TIFF press conference and Murray picture by WireImage/Getty for TIFF. Photo of Douglas by Albert E. Rodriguez for TIFF.
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MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Football is back at Mountaineer Field, and this one is under the lights.
"I can definitely see Morgantown turns up to another level for night games," CB Daryl Worley said with a big grin Tuesday.
West Virginia, coming off a strong showing in a 33-23 loss to No. 2 Alabama in Atlanta, will be dialed up for its home opener against defending FCS runner-up Towson at Milan Puskar Stadium. The Tigers are significantly weaker than they were a year ago, having replaced their feature back and the entire offensive line, so the Mountaineers should, by all indications, rumble to a double-digit win.
But West Virginia did have plenty of trouble against FCS William & Mary last season.
QB Clint Trickett had a field day against the Crimson Tide, passing for 365 yards and a touchdown, and I'd expect more of the same today. West Virginia will look to establish the run with RB Rushel Shell, too, and bury Towson early.
Check back here for injury updates and news bullets throughout the day.
Matchup: West Virginia (0-1) vs. Towson (0-1), 7:30 today, Milan Puskar Stadium, Morgantown, W.Va.
TV, Radio, Internet: ROOT Sports, Mountaineer Sports Network, Sirius 102, XM 196.
West Virginia: Hasn’t started a season 0-2 since 1979. … Had no turnovers against Alabama, the first zero-turnover game since Nov. 23, 2012. … Quarterback Clint Trickett’s 365 passing yards in Week 1 were the 17th-most single-game passing yards in West Virginia history. … Receiver Kevin White had nine catches for a career-high 143 yards and a touchdown against Alabama.
Towson: Has won 12 road games in a row. … . Rushed for 190 yards against Central Connecticut State last week while allowing 192 rushing yards. … Towson’s quick-strike offense averaged 1:55 on its four scoring drives in Week 1. … Running back Darius Victor rushed for 105 yards and a touchdown in his first career start.
Hidden stat: Only eight teams in the past five seasons have scored as many points against the vaunted Crimson Tide defense as West Virginia did this past Saturday (23).
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
• This home opener is no Division I-AA cakewalk for West Virginia. The Towson of 2014 might not be anywhere near as intimidating as the Towson of 2013, the team that reached the FCS championship game, but Mountaineers are preparing for a tough test. It'll be an opportunity for a lot of players to get action, so keep an eye for some of the young names on your roster.
• West Virginia found a diamond in the rough in WR Kevin White, who exploded for nine catches and 143 yards, both career highs, and a touchdown. From Emmaus High to Lackawanna College and, finally, West Virginia and beyond, White took the road to big-time football.
• S Dravon Henry, the pride of Aliquippa, held his own against Alabama and has a bright, bright future at West Virginia. Dana Holgorsen said he expects Henry's career trajectory to follow that of Alabama safety Landon Collins.
• Holgorsen delivered Tuesday in a lights-out news conference.
• QB Clint Trickett called Towson "The Alabama of I-AA," but that was before he heard about their loss to Central Connecticut State.
• RB Rushel Shell hit the ground running Week 1 but quickly ran into Alabama's brick wall. Expect him to come ready to churn and burn today.
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I'm exploring the garden of northern Italy and will be in Venice on Sunday 9/7/14. Follow me here every step as I'll be blogging away.
I'm looking forward to sharing my trip with you. Besides Venice, I'll be in Verona, Lake Como and Lake Maggiore seeing stunning villas and gardens.
Italy will be my home for 10 days, I hope you'll check in to see what I've discovered.