West Virginia got completely embarrassed in week two. The Mountaineers went into halftime down by 31 and it didn’t get any prettier. The Missouri Tigers played like a team that wanted it more, and West Virginia just went through the motions.
NC State, the Mountaineers opponent this week, has looked dominant and has taken care of business through two weeks. They have blown out their two opponents. Granted, those opponents were East Carolina and West Carolina but they’ve still looked good.
This series dates back to 1914 and both teams have split the ten games against each other. These two squads were scheduled to get after each other last season before Hurricane Florence did its damage. That has added a little animosity heading into this one for a game between two schools who should definitely play each other a lot more.
- When: Sat, Sep 14, 11:00 AM CT
- Where: Milan Puskar Stadium, Morgantown, WV
- Forecast: 73 degrees, scattered thunderstorms
- TV: Fox Sports 1
- Betting Line: WVU +6.5, O/U 45.5
NC State Wolfpack (2-0)
NC State has been one of the best ACC squads the last two years. The Wolfpack have played to back to back nine win seasons and have had the unfortunate task of playing Clemson every year to damper their season a bit. This year has been a turnaround for NC State, however, as they replace both coordinators from those nine win squads.
The offense is surprising many people after the loss of a ton of its offensive production from last year. NC State and WVU were in the same boat of loosing their QB and top wide receivers to the NFL, but NC State has filled those holes a lot better than West Virginia has.
Quarterback Matt McKay has done a great job filling the shoes of Ryan Finley. He’s been great throwing the ball short. His deep ball isn’t much of a threat, yet, but he has avoided turnovers and has managed to avoid any sacks so far. The receivers have all shared the load but Tabari Hines has been the leading receiver.
The running game has been electric, led by true freshman Zonovan Knight. He eclipsed 100 yards last week and already has three touchdowns. The offensive line is solid but not exceptional. They have done a great job of not allowing a sack, however, and the run game has been solid.
The defense has been exceptional through two games. A lot of the success can be attributed to a familiar face. Tony Gibson changed the NC State defense to his, “infamous??”, 3-3-5 style. That change has led the defense to generate a ton of pressure and hold opponents to 46 yards rushing through two games. The defense has also not allowed a touchdown yet.
Tanner Ingle and Chris Ingram are defensive backs who are one and two on the team in tackles. Peyton Wilson and and Louis Acceus are linebackers who get in the box and make plays. It’s a solid defensive unit and should give WVU fits when they have the ball.
West Virginia Mountaineers (1-1)
The good news for West Virginia is there is no where to go but up after last week. Neal Brown knows that and talked about how many more freshman are going to get the chance this week. Especially on the offensive side of the ball.
Quarterback Austin Kendall struggled a lot last week. He was even replaced for a drive but reentered after backup Jack Allison threw a pick six. The Mountaineer passing offensive has not really been impressive to date.
The biggest disappointment has to be the run game. WVU was viewed as a team who would rely heavily on the run game to score points. So far the Mountaineers haven’t been able to average over two yards a carry. The offensive line has been the main struggle. NC State will definitely bring pressure and force WVU to run the ball, something they have not been able to do at all this season.
The Mountaineer defense took a big hit when Taijh Alston suffered a season ending knee injury. His impact was felt when Missouri ran all over them. And the Tigers could have let WVU get in to the backfield and still would have racked up a ton of yards, the Mountaineers couldn’t tackle at all last week.
The pass defense, mostly lede by Keith Washington and Josh Norwood hasn’t been terrible. But the run defense has been so bad that no one has really had to throw the ball against the Mountaineers yet. With the explosive running back NC State has I don’t see that trend changing.
Keys to the Game for West Virginia
Fix the offense: Hopefully playing freshman like Bryce Wheaton will rejuvenate the offense and get them going. WVU needs to score but also needs to give the defense some rest, Missouri just destroyed the Mountaineers in that aspect last week.
Come out energized: The home crowd is going to be frustrated. WVU got killed last week and a noon kickoff won’t get students in the seats. It’s going to be a dry atmosphere, especially if WVU starts slow. Getting off to a hot start will get the crowd into it, which can be huge for this young team.
Let Tony Gibsons aggressiveness work against him: One thing is for sure, that’s Tony Gibson is going to blitz, a lot. Also with this being his homecoming he definitely wants to cause chaos against the school that didn’t offer him the head coaching spot. Let his aggressive play calling come back to bite him. Bounce runs to the outside and get creative with quick throws. The offense can’t get much worse anyway.
West Virginia isn’t completely outmatched here. I do think it’s going to be tough though, NC State is really good in all the areas where West Virginia struggles. Expect a lot of NC State rushing yards and a lot of West Virginia players getting tackled in their own backfield. I don’t see how the Mountaineers win this game. NC state wins, and covers.