Monday Morning Quarterback: Rain no problem for WVU
It was a rainy afternoon for the home opener at Mountaineer Field but after a slow start West Virginia cruised to a 52-17 victory over Youngstown State.
Recognizing its secondary would be overmatched against the WVU passing attack, the Penguins basically dropped seven into coverage and invited the Mountaineers to run the football. West Virginia successfully did so, accruing 289 rushing yards on the afternoon. But even with the coverage approach by the opposition, quarterback Will Grier still completed 21 of 26 passes for 332 yards and four touchdowns, three of those to Gary Jennings.
It will be interesting to see how future opponents attempt to slow down the Mountaineer passing offense. If given time Grier is consistently accurate with the football, so allowing him to remain comfortable in the pocket is not an option. Although West Virginia did run effectively Saturday, it was admittedly against an FCS opponent, and I suspect that we may see defenses continue to invite the Mountaineers to run the ball with the hope they will not be able to do so consistently, and then try to bring pressure on third-down conversion attempts.
Although WVU will continue to use multiple running backs, we were all able to see the best of the group is true freshman Leddie Brown, a Delaware native who played his senior year in high school in Philadelphia. Brown has a quick burst but also runs hard. Even when contact is made by a defender he still moves forward. Martell Pettaway, Kennedy McCoy, and Alex Sinkfield (who left the game with an injury), will all continue to be a part of the offense, but as the season plays out Brown will be the leader of this group.
There were times that a lack of focus was evident, the most glaring example being 12 penalties for 114 yards. But that is not surprising, given an emotional performance in Charlotte the previous week and playing the weakest opponent on the 2018 schedule.
The West Virginia did limit Youngstown to 17 points and 336 yards, but it is far too early to get a good handle on the defensive side of the ball.
There is concern with injuries at linebacker, where West Virginia played a 191 lbs. safety, JoVanni Stewart, at that position Saturday. The secondary at times looked a bit shaky, committing two flagrant pass interference penalties when all the defenders had to do is turn around and find the football. The Mountaineer defense has yet to be challenged by an outstanding quarterback, but that is about to change.
THIS SATURDAY: WVU faces its first true road test when it travels to Raleigh, NC, to play North Carolina State.
The Wolfpack are led by quarterback Ryan Finley, a three-year starter who passed for 3,500 yards and 17 touchdowns in 2017. Although they lost their entire defensive front from last season, this is a team which traditionally has been outstanding on its home field. One wild card as the game approaches is the possible impact of Tropical Storm Florence, which may become a hurricane and could target the Carolinas as the week progresses. Weather conditions could thus significantly impact the game.
WEST VIRGINIA 30 NORTH CAROLINA STATE 24.