Saturday, September 05, 2009

Instant Analysis: West Virginia's First Game

You can't stay undefeated if you lose your first game. That's what I expect Bill Stewart to say in his press conference when discussing WVU's 33-20 victory over FCS school Liberty. It's a victory and WVU is 1-0. Whether the final score was 70-0 or 3-2, WVU would still be 1-0 if their score was the greater number. That's what I would expect Lou Holtz to say if he talked about WVU. But inside the numbers of the game, you can't feel real great about what happened on Mountaineer Field on Saturday.

The defense gave up 20 points and nearly 300 yards to a team that plays in the Big South. This is a team that is going to play West Virginia Wesleyan this year. Early in the game it appeared the Flames were going to be able to match WVU score-for-score. Thankfully, the defense settled in and made a few stops but the game was never fully in hand until a late Flames turnover. Linebacker play was solid but the secondary seemed suspect. There were a few plays where Brandon Hogan was clearly beat but the Flames QB didn't have the ability to get the ball to the open receiver. A better quarterback would have made some plays against a defense that played rather conservatively.

Another area of disappointment was kick coverage. Mike Brown averaged nearly 36 yards per kick return on 3 returns and Aldreakis Allen averaged 23 yards on his 2 returns. Considering this was a special point of emphasis for WVU, it was rather disheartening to see the team plagued with the same problems. On a positive note, Tyler Bitancurt and Scott Kozlowski both kicked well.

On offense, Jarrett Brown threw the ball well and didn't make any egregious errors that could have made this game interesting. I was happy to see Tyler Urban catching the ball downfield. I think the team made a special point of trying to get a vertical game going instead of simply relying on bubble screens and simple crossing routes. Throwing vertically can open the field up for Devine to make some spectacular plays.

Speaking of Noel Devine, I thought he played well. Still a bit too much east/west running but he was looking for holes and not trying to make every carry be a homerun. Brown also tucked the ball when it was appropriate but continued to look upfield until he was forced to run. Lots of yards...unfortunately, not able to punch in touchdowns and had to settle for field goals which was a bit disappointing.

Overally, it was a good win and a good way to start the season. The real tests begin next week when ECU comes to town. WVU will need to play better defensively to stop Pat Pinkney and extract revenge for last year's debacle down in Greenville. And I'll be anxious to see how the WVU offense executes against a real FBS opponent. And, naturally, something must be down about the atrocity known as the WVU kick coverage. Should be interesting. Then again, it always is.

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