By Jay Fisher
WVU has two games under its belt for the football season. The first was a loss to a Top 20 team (Virginia Tech), which literally came down to the final play. The second has a blowout win over a hapless team (East Carolina).
It’s dangerous to draw too many hard conclusions from one game. Two games isn’t easy, but you can start to see trends. First, the positives: Will Grier looks to be as good as advertised. The first half against Virginia Tech was a little shaky at times, which would not be surprising, given that it was his first action in nearly two years. Since then, he’s been on fire. He ended up 31-53 for 371 yards with 3 TD’s and 1 interception against the Hokies. Last week, he had 352 yards on 19-25 passing with 5 TD’s and no interceptions. He has shown accuracy, the ability to throw deep, and he seems to be doing a good job of finding open receivers.
The running backs have also looked pretty solid. Justin Crawford is averaging 8 yards per carry, and Kennedy Mckoy is at 5.5 yards. Martell Pettaway has been the third running back and has looked good as well. As far as receivers go, the first set have been excellent, but the next wave will need to step up. David Sills, Gary Jennings, Ka’Raun White, and Marcus Simms (back after missing the VPI game) have all had good moments. Ricky Rogers and Reggie Roberson showed some good flashes during the East Carolina game. There have been a few too many drops, but overall, the receivers are doing what they need to.
The offensive line has been a pleasant surprise. Against a good Hokie defense, they were able to do a pretty good job of protecting Grier and handling the line of scrimmage on runs. They didn’t win every battle, but that is about the quality of the VPI defensive line. They won the battle against East Carolina, and were able to rotate in several backups without a drop in performance.
[private] Defensively, things are ok, but that’s about it. The defensive line seems to be holding its own, but if they rush only three, there isn’t consistent pressure on the quarterback. The linebackers are missing David Long, but they, too, have been ok. The problem there is depth. Along the line, WVU has rotated multiple players. But at linebacker, they are not substituting. That is a recipe for disaster, especially once Big 12 season starts.
The secondary, outside of Kyzir White, has been iffy. They got burned a few times against Virginia Tech, and that trend continued against East Carolina. In a pass happy Big 12, that is cause for serious concern. They will need to pick up their level of play.
Special teams is also a major concern. Mike Molina missed two field goals against ECU from 44 and 45 yards. He had issues last year outside of 40 yards, and those don’t appear to have improved this year, at least based on the first two games. Kickoffs have been OK, but there was a kick out of bounds in each game; that has to stop. It does appear that Marcus Simms could be a dangerous returner, (but he will need to call for a fair catch every now and then).
The next game is against Delaware State. The Hornets are a 1-AA (FCS) school, and not a very good team. In 2014, they won 2 games. In 2015, it was just one. Last year, they were winless. They started this year with two straight losses. If you thought East Carolina was bad, you ain’t seen nothing yet.
This game will be about two things: keeping everyone healthy, and getting backups some playing time. There is no excuse for key players to play very long in this one. It will be a rout.
Notes: Kickoff is at noon. It will be televised by AT&T Sportsnet (the new name for ROOT Sports)…WVU is 26th in the coaches poll, and 29th in the media poll…The women’s soccer team climbed back into the Top 5 after knocking off then-number 1 Penn State. But they will fall back again after a tough 4-0 loss to Duke, a game where everything went wrong, and nothing went right. They did bounce back with a 3-0 win over Richmond, and they are now 2-2 vs Top 10 teams…The men’s soccer team is undefeated and has moved into the Top 20 of the rankings themselves.