With the first game out of the way, what did we see and learn?
WVU opened up with the deep ball and scored with a 41 yard TD pass to true freshman Jovon Durante. We learned QB Skyler Howard is still erratic with his passes. Though Durante and Shelton each caught passes for over 120-yards, they had to stop and comeback for them. If the passes had been in front of them, they could have kept running and scored. Durante and Gibson also each caught a pass in the end-zone.
If the first half we saw mostly deep balls, a lack luster running game, and Holgorsen slamming his head phones to the ground and pulling his hair because the offense couldn’t pick-up 3rd and short, and 4th and short. Going forward WVU must get better at picking up this yardage.
In the 2nd half, WVU’s scoring picked-up with QB Skyler Howard throwing more short and intermediate passes, and fewer deep balls. This opened up the running game and WVU replaced field-goals with touchdowns.
A hard hit early on Georgia Southern’s QB may have set the tone for the game, for it was evident he didn’t want hit like that again and that the hard hit early affected his game.
It was evident in the 2nd half that WVU’s offense had worn down the Eagles defense, and this also helped WVU’s running game.
The Mountaineer defense was the key to WVU’s lopsided victory. Safety Karl Joseph led the defense with a fumble recovery in the 1st half, 3 interceptions in the 3rd quarter. According to LB Jared Barber it was a hit from Joseph that separated his shoulder.
Several other WVU defenders made big plays, Jared Barber, KJ Dillon, Dravon Henry-Askew (got WVU’s first interception). Nobel Nwachukwu, Nick kwiatkoski, Daryl Worley (put on a pass defending clinic), Christian Brown, Darrien Howard, and others all made big plays. Whenever a WVU defender was hurt, WVU’s defense didn’t miss a beat a beat, for the next guy in played as well as the starter.
Punter Nick O’Toole seems to be back on track with his punting, after an off year last season.
The offensive players that impressed me were on the line. I think this may be the best OL WVU has had in more recent years. Other offensive players that stood out were outside receivers Shelton Gibson (who has got to learn to catch balls coming at him), and Jovon Durante; inside receiver Jordan Thompson who showed he isn’t scared to stick his body in to get a block, Daikiel Shorts, and Wendell Smallwood.
With WVU posting a shutout, a lot of fans will have their hopes up going forward. My advice would be to have a cautious outlook on WVU.
Where WVU needs improvement going forward. QB Skyler Howard has got learn to lay the deep ball out in front of his receivers. Howard has yet to impress me with his ability to play QB and to throw the ball, so my jury is still out on him. The same goes for RB Rushel Shell. I think he played OK, I just wasn’t impress with Shell in this game overall. Donte Thomas-William was even less impressive and reminded me of Shell with his self recovered fumble at the goal-line. For a guy who proclaimed he was the best RB on the team back in the spring, he failed to show us anything against the Eagles.
Going forward, there is a lot of room for improvement that needs to take place on WVU’s offense especially at the QB and RB positions, and along the OL. When it is 3rd or 4th and short, the OL needs to do a better job at getting the push, and the RBs need to run harder and show they want the additional yards. Though Howard hit over 60% of his passes, he is still erratic and his passing game needs to improve.
After the game on Saturday, I’d not touch the defense. The defense is good with lots of depth. I like what I saw from every position player on defense.
Going forward, I look for WVU to win against Liberty and Maryland. These games should be used by the offense to get better, and to prepare for the game in Norman, OK. It will be the game in Norman that tells all of us what kind of team we have, and what our chances are at being one of the top teams in the nation.