Today was a little different for me, having to listen to audio of WVU’s game instead of watching it on TV. If I had lived in Youngstown, OH instead of Dayton, I could have watched the game. Apparently Time Warner Cable does not have an agreement with Root Sports to broadcast WVU games in the Dayton, area.
Listening to the radio announcers and following the stats, it appeared WVU QB Skyler Howard had a pretty good game. Late in the 3rd quarter Michael Walker texted me and asked who the QB was at that point, as he knows I am not a huge fan of Skyler Howard. I told him I had no idea as I had not seen a pass play. Therefore I had no clue how many passes were late, on time, short or over thrown. When Howard can hit a receiver in full stride so he can keep running, he’ll start winning me over.
Howard did complete 21 of 26 passes against Liberty for 263 yards and two TDs with no interceptions. He also ran the ball 12 times for 68 yards. He was the 2nd leading rusher today, behind only Wendell Smallwood who ran the ball 15 times for 88 yards. Rushel Shell would do a much better job running the ball if he’d just run with it and stop being indecisive. Against Liberty as well as Georgia Southern, he hesitated on his decision to run and cost WVU yardage. It’s as though he is afraid to take a hit.
After the game Coach Dana Holgorsen and the players on defense,all stated that they played without emotion today. Holgorsen said in his postgame presser that the defense was lethargic. From listening to the game and seeing the highlights, I have to agree. The defense got little to no pressure on Liberty’s quarterback, and WVU CB Daryl Worley was burned twice. For someone who is considered by many to be one of the best corners’ in college football, Worley did not play like it today.
Hopefully, the woes of punt and kick-off returners are over. Today it appeared that the blocking was there to give these returners a chance to catch and return the ball. For now WVU’s return game for this season isn’t a goose egg. Last year WVU had zero return yards for the season. Against Liberty, K.J. Dillon had 2 punt returns for 21 yards, and Gary Jennings had one for 15 yards.
I was pleasantly surprised that 9 different WVU players caught passes today: Shelton Gibson (1 TD), Jovon Durante (1 TD), Elijah Wellman (1 TD), Gary Jennings, Jack Marcellus (I’d like to see more of Jacky for he has a twitch), Devonte Mathis, Rushel Shell, Daikiel Shorts and Wendell Smallwood all caught at least one pass.
WVU still has areas they need to improve. While the OL is looking better than in more recent years, it is still struggling to get a push on running plays. When it comes to run blocking the low man usually wins. While it appears they are working on this, it still needs work.
I’d like to see Elijah Wellman and Jacky Marcellus get more carries. After viewing the highlight video of Marcellus’ catch and run, I would like to see Howard do that short toss to Marcellus that Geno Smith used to give Tavon Austin. With Marcellus’ speed and twitch, I believe he could execute this very well.
It was good to see Kyle Rose and Darrien Howard each with two tackles, and Howard also knock down a pass. For D-Linemen at WVU it is rare that these guys get a chance to make a tackle or a play on the ball.
While the OL needs to work on run blocking, the defense as a whole needs to do a much better job at getting pressure on quarterbacks. With this said, a lot of defensive players let themselves be known today. Nobel Nwachukwu, Kyle Rose, Darrien Howard, Xavier Preston, Nick Kwaitkoski, KJ Dillon, Dravon Askew-Henry, Terrell Chestnut, Karl Joseph, Al-Raheed Benton, and Christian Brown all had good games today.
Perhaps the most impressive play today came from left tackle Yodny Cajuste, who was beaten by a defender who got in and sacked Howard. Cajuste learned from it and was not beaten again.
After getting 5 turnovers last week against Georgia Southern, there were no turnovers either way against Liberty.
Creating turnovers, getting pressure on the quarterback, quarterback sacks, redzone play and run blocking are all things WVU still needs to work on and improve.
Maybe one day Rushel Shell and Donte Thomas-Williams will play like the highly touted recruits they were coming out of high school. Shell has had flashes where he exhibited that he has the ability to be the running back everyone thought he could be, but for whatever reason he lacks consistency.
Make no mistake, this is one of the most talented and athletic teams I have ever seen at WVU. But if they truly want to win the Big 12 and especially the NCAA Title, then they have to play every play in every game like they want it and deserve it. The defense cannot afford to play with a lack of intensity like it did today against the remaining schedule.
This team can be as good as it wants to be, but they have to play every play like the championship is on the line . . . . . for it is.
Feature photo by WVUSports.com