[Editor's Note: Grades will usually run on Sunday or Monday following the game, but the holiday has us just a bit behind this week.]
Week one is done and in the books for WVU. At this point you have probably read countless recaps of the game talking about how each unit performed, whether defensive stock is up or down and how different writers see the season playing out. Well buckle up because I’m about to give you the definitive breakdown of Saturday’s game against FCS opponent Marshall.
Usually, Marshall comes out extremely pumped to play big brother and jump on us early. Eventually we get tired of the ankle biting and stomp them out. This time, however was a much different story. Holgorsen decided he was going to end the game in the game in the first quarter and that is exactly what he did. The only person in the stadium that thought Marshall had a chance after our first three offensive possessions was Chuck Landon and he probably wasn't sober enough to see the paper in his typewriter during the game.
Here are my grades with some random thoughts mixed in…
This unit did what it wanted, when it wanted to do it: Run up the middle, gain of 12; Quick screen pass, gain of 10; Deep pass, gain of 35; Broken play, touchdown. I think it was Mike Casazza that tweeted, the last two times WVU scored 60+ in an opening game was during the 1988 and 2007 seasons. Big things are coming.
The only play that did not seem to work was the quick tip pass to Tavon and teams are likely over-preparing for it after what they saw in the Orange Bowl. There is no reason to individually grade QB or WR because we all knew they would be great and they lived up to the hype.
Running Back: A+
If Shawne Alston is going to be that tough and punishing all season, Big 12 defenses better buckle up the chin straps. He is on a mission to deliver enough punishment this year to make up for his lack of playing time the past three seasons. Andrew Buie is a nice change of pace and seems to have grown tremendously in the off-season. What I noticed most is that he had more patience. He allowed the line to create the hole and was not anxiously running up their backs like he did early last season.
To me the decision is made, barring an injury, Dustin Garrison should redshirt to save his eligibility.
Offensive Line: A+
I never know how the offensive line performs during live action unless they give up a sack or a run is stuffed behind the line of scrimmage. Even then it may not be the fault of the linemen. Maybe the fullback missed a blitz pick-up or Geno held the ball too long. That is why I always try to watch the game again before lambasting or praising this unit too much.
After re-watching the game yesterday afternoon, this unit was probably the most dominant on the field. On running plays, they were able to move the line of scrimmage and open up gaping holes for the backs. There were multiple instances where a lineman would pancake their initial block, get to the second level and make another block. It was awesome to watch a quality offensive line again.
It may be a little generous to give a unit that allowed 413 passing yards and 34 points a C, but a part of me liked what I saw from this unit. The defense was aggressive and attacked the line of scrimmage. This unit stopped multiple misdirection and screen plays behind the line of scrimmage. They also tackled relatively well. They just played terrible in pass coverage.
One thing that does worry me is that it took a lot of time to get in the play calls. There were multiple times our players were looking over to the sidelines and did not have a chance to get set in their positions before Marshall snapped the ball. I don’t know if what the players not knowing the signs or the defensive coaches taking a long time deciding on the play call. Either way, this has to be fixed. Defenders barley getting into position before the ball is snapped puts them on their heels and makes them react rather than executing the play called in from the sideline.
Special Teams: D
While the kickoffs and ensuing coverage looked vastly improved over years past, a blocked punt and missed extra point are inexcusable. It's little things like this that could derail a possible dream season in the making if they don't get corrected before conference play starts.
While Holgorsen took all the blame for that fourth and goal call after the game, that stubbornness scares me a little bit. That stubbornness is fine if you are in your dorm room playing NCAA ’13. It is not ok when you are trying to win national championship. I have confidence that Holgorsen learned from his mistake and won’t make it again.
As I mentioned above, our defense took a long time to get in the proper formation. Marshall ran a quick paced attack, but it isn’t like the unit and coaches don’t see that every day in practice. It has to improve because the pace is only going to get quicker once we get into Big 12 play.
Fox Broadcast: B
I’ve seen a wide range of opinions on Fox’s coverage of Saturday’s game. It seems you either loved it, or hated it. I personally really enjoyed the change of pace from ESPiN. While there were some glitches in the production quality of the game, it was refreshing to have the announcers solely focused on the game they were watching. On ESPiN you never know what type of tangents the announcers are going to take during the game. We all remember the UConn broadcast from a few years back where the broadcast team would not stop talking about the suspended UConn players, which eventually lead them into somehow talking about steroids in baseball.
While the Fox team may not have been the best ever, I liked how they focused on the game they were watching and did not go off on tangents about the general world of sports.