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West Virginia Routs East Carolina in Home Opener

After a disappointing loss in week one, the Mountaineers bounced back in a big way against the Pirates.

Getty Images - Joe Sargent

West Virginia fans hoped this match-up against a less-than-intimidating East Carolina team would be a Will Grier showcase, and they were not disappointed. The first Mountaineer drive of the game ended in a Justin Crawford touchdown, and every drive the rest of the half (save one missed field goal) would end in points. Grier went 19/25 for 253 yards and five touchdowns. David Sills V proved to be his favorite target this week, snagging 5 passes for 153 yards and three touchdowns. Gary Jennings was quieter than he was in the opener, but the ECU defense was not going to let him get going. He still ended with four grabs for nearly 50 yards receiving.

Marcus Simms, coming off a suspension in the season opener, only caught one ball, but it was a 52-yard touchdown strike that showed off his vertical speed and big-play ability. When asked if his presence would have changed the outcome a week ago, Dana Holgorsen responded bluntly and honestly, “Probably.” Simms also gave a much-needed lift to the much-maligned special teams unity. He returned two kicks for 61 yards and returned one punt for 23 yards. He may not be Tavon Austin, but it looks as though Simms will give West Virginia a genuine home-run threat on special teams.

A key for the game was to get the offense humming, and O.C. Jake Spavital was able to do just that. West Virginia figured they would win, but they wanted to look good doing it. With their trademark balance, West Virginia rushed for over 200 yards (118 coming on just 15 carries for Justin Crawford) and threw for over 400. The second team offense stalled at times, but it would be really hard to poke holes in the first team’s performance. The ones were able to end the game by halftime, overwhelming the Pirates 49-3.

Despite holding the Pirates to 3 first half points, Jed Drenning, sideline reporter for WVU’s IMG radio broadcasting team, reported that Defensive Coordinator Tony Gibson lit into his unit at halftime like he had never seen before. The defense played well enough to get the job done, but there are still some question marks – particularly in the secondary. After watching Mason Rudolph and Baker Mayfield, Mountaineer fans are worried about how this secondary will hold up in conference play. Once again, the Pirates were able to get a couple big plays, including a 95-yard touchdown catch by junior wideout Trevon Brown. Unlike the Virginia Tech game though, West Virginia had two takeaways, both in the form of a Kyzir White interception. This defense will have to continue to gel. The secondary will have to tighten up and the young defensive line will have to finally get to the quarterback.

Team Stats

1st Downs 21 30
3rd Down Eff 7-18 6-13
4th Down Eff 1-2 1-1
Total Yards 470 614
Passing 328 403
Comp-Att 23-47 24-34
Yards Per Pass 7.0 11.9
Interceptions 2 0
Rushing 142 211
Rush Att 32 47
Yards Per Rush 4.4 4.5
Fumbles Lost 0 0
Penalties 8-103 4-55
Possession 31:42 28:18
ECU – T. Sirk 16/34 191 5.6 1 2 38.6
WVU – W. Grier 19/25 352 14.1 5 0 99.3
ECU – T. Dye 14 71 5.1 0 26
WVU – J. Crawford 15 118 7.9 2 41
ECU – T. Brown 2 103 51.5 1 95
WVU – D. Sills V 7 153 21.9 3 75

Emptying the Notebook

And thus, the Willy G Heisman campaign has begun.

Marcus Simms has tantalizing speed. I don’t know if he can be a Tavon Austin, but he makes this West Virginia team far more dangerous. Ka’Raun White, David Sills V, and Gary Jennings are all pretty big guys, but they’re going to get open much more frequently with Simms stretching the field.

Second team offense had an opportunity to prove their readiness to step in, and they were largely unable to do so. This receiving corps needs to get deeper. A big injury could really stall this passing attack. I don’t think anyone in Morgantown is worried about 1-4 on the WR depth chart. But it is becoming increasingly clear that there aren’t many other options at this point.

Al-Rasheed Benton led the defense, once again. Kyzir White snagged a couple of picks.

Speaking of Kyzir White, his brother Kevin (Mountaineer legend) got injured in the Bears season opener and looks to be out for the season AGAIN. Has anyone in NFL history had luck this bad?

The first half featured the best offensive production since the 2012 shellacking of Clemson in the Orange Bowl. Clemson would make up for it in the years to come…

Following the game, East Carolina “reassigned” their defensive coordinator.

There was a great crowd at Milan Puskar Stadium. A statue of Milan Puskar was unveiled on the stadium grounds, which is cool I guess, but it’s time to give the fans what they want:  a Don Nehlen statue. The man only built the program, and all.

Did I mention the secondary has to get better? Because it does.

Next week’s opponent, Delaware State, may be one of the worst teams to ever come to Morgantown, so expect the Mountaineer offense to continue putting up video game numbers for a few weeks.

Special teams looked better, but Mike Molina missed a kick, and his performance will be one to monitor.

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