The curtains were raised in Morgantown, West Virginia on Saturday, September 5th for the opening match-up between the West Virginia Mountaineers vs Georgia Southern Eagles. In only their second year in FBS, the Eagles came to Morgantown with an athletic and quick football team. Their running back, Matt Breida who lead the nation in YPC last year with 8.7 per for his standards was held in check gaining just 70 rushing yards. The Eagles’s starting QB did not play in this game due to being suspended for academic reasons for 2 games. But, that’s enough about the Eagles!
Offensive Breakdown: The offense started off slow only getting into the end zone once in the first while settling for 3 field goals. The bright spots in the first half were from the freshmen phenom Jovon Durante and Soph Shelton Gibson. These guys showed speed and got behind defenders with ease. Gibson finished the night with 3 catches for 130 yards and a TD. Durante finished with similar numbers gaining 3 catches for 121 yards and a TD as well. This WR tandem will make it tough on defenders all year long if they stay healthy. The QB play of Skyler Howard was tremendous; Efficient, does not turn the ball over, steps up in the pocket well, needs to get rid of the ball in testy situations and work on the internal clock some. This kid has a chip on his shoulder due to people telling him he was too short, too slow, etc. Time will tell but for right now he manages the game, and is consistent. Wendell Smallwood ran hard gaining 96 yards on just 11 carries while finding the end zone once. Rushel Shell got a TD as well, but looked like a 2nd string running back on this night. William Crest Jr. found the end zone as well on a QB option late into the 4th quarter. The kid can run, but the passes that he threw looked like ducks. Crest will have plenty of time to clean this up, all he needs is more exposure and experience.
Defensive Breakdown: It would be an impossible feat to try and live up to expectations this year from the Mountaineer faithful! Fans expect these guys to be the 85 Bears on the defensive side of the ball! Don’t get me wrong, if I had to put a word to describe them it would be “ferocious”. With names like Karl Joseph, K.J Dillion, Jared Barber, Kwiatkoski (which is an excellent LB name) Chestnut, etc. how could you go wrong? Barber is back this year after missing all of last year with an ACL injury. Kwiatkoski flies around the ball and is one of the best defenders in the nation. He reads the ball as well as anyone. Then we get to Karl Joseph, man this guy can play some smash-mouth, hard-nosed football; 1 fumble recovery, 8 tackles, 3 int’s (all in the 3rd quarter). Joseph is an amazing football player, and his popularity continues to grow. I would be concerned with him making it at the next level due to his head first tackles. Other than this you want this guy on your team any day of the week!
Closing notes: I believe this team will exceed expectations this year due to their size, speed, agility. We just need to see them in action against some stiffer competition, such as Maryland, Oklahoma, Baylor etc.