Jake Spavital added more balance to his offense against East Carolina. There were some grumblings amongst some Mountaineer fans that he threw the ball too much against Virginia Tech the week before (54 pass attempts/ 35 rush attempts). This week, he was more balanced. In the first half, West Virginia ran the ball 22 times and had 22 pass attempts.
The offense was firing on all cylinders, scoring on seven of their first eight possessions in the first half. On the one drive they didn’t score, Mike Molina missed a 44-yard field goal.
Offensively for the Mountaineers, the starters put up 56 points in two and a half quarters, which was expected, but it was good to see the offense come out and do what they should do after a tough loss against Virginia Tech.
The Mountaineers were up 49-3 at halftime while Will Grier went 16-22, 322 yards and threw for 4 touchdowns. So why did he start the second half? “I wanted to work on halftime stuff. I thought we were bad at it, I wanted our guys to have to go in there make adjustments and
“I wanted to work on halftime stuff. I thought we were bad at it. I wanted our guys to have to go in there make adjustments and come back out and get ready and play, restart our engines, I wanted to practice that,” explained Dana.
It was good to see Marcus Simms back on the field, also. He made a difference on special teams. He had a nice 23-yard punt return to give the Mountaineers good position to start a drive at the West Virginia 47 yard line and the offense scored just three plays later. Simms also had two kickoff returns for an average of 30.5 yards. On offense, he gave them the speed over the top, hauling in a 52-yard touchdown pass from Will Grier.
David Sills finished the day with 7 receptions for 153 yards and 3 touchdowns. “He’s Mr. Consistency,” said Dana. It’s clear he’s become Will Grier’s favorite target, which really shouldn’t come as a surprise as much as he was targeted during the spring game.
Justin Crawford averaged 7.9 yards per carry on 15 rushes for 118 yards and 2 touchdowns. He had a nice long touchdown run of 41 yards in the 2nd quarter as well.
Mike Molina missed two field goals from 44 and 45 yards out. “He’s pretty dang gone consistent inside the 40. Unfortunately, he missed two of them that were outside the 40,” says Dana Holgorsen. “There’s going to be times we are going to need him to hit those. If it’s a game winning thing, I’d like to think that we would do a better job of centering the ball with those deep kicks like that,” he added.
The defense only gave up 3 points in the first half, gave up 191 total yards and held them 3 for 9 on third down.
Kyzir White secured the defense their first turnovers of the year, both on interceptions.
With all the new faces on the defense, they are still trying to figure out where they are supposed to be at times. They gave up 21 first downs on the day. 10 of those came in the first half, and only had three 3-and-outs. They have to get off the field and give the offense better field position. The first series of the game for the Pirates, they went 70 yards on 15 plays and held the ball for 6:35. Luckily, the defense stiffened and only allowed the Pirates 3 points for their efforts.
There wasn’t much pressure on the opposing quarterback. The defensive line failed to collapse the pocket around the opposition on several occasions. This is something they will have to figure out before they get to Big 12 play.
The defense was bailed out on some dropped passes and some overthrows. There is still a lot to improve on, but I do have faith that Tony Gibson can get the job done. There was some worry at the beginning of last year when Youngstown State came to Morgantown and was moving the ball on the defense, but they came together and shut down one of the best offenses in the country last year against Texas Tech. Hopefully, this unit can repicate that in 2017.