The West Virginia Mountaineers escaped Landover, Maryland by hanging on to defeat Brigham Young University. A touchdown with 11:27 left in the fourth quarter put the Mountaineers up by a score 35-19, but the Cougars came charging back. It was not until Maurice Fleming intercepted Taysom Hill on a tipped ball at the goal line with 1:00 left on the clock that WVU locked up the victory by a count of 35-32.
It was not entirely pretty, but the Mountaineers will take an undefeated 3-0 record with them into conference play. As always, let’s take a look at any questions that we may find answers to in the aftermath of yesterday’s game.
How good is WVU?
This remains to be seen. BYU is 1-3, and has a scoring differential of -5, against four Power 5 opponents. Sagarin has their schedule to date listed as the 9th toughest in the country. They may end up being pretty good before its all said and done. One thing is certain, it is better to be unsure at 3-0 than it is to be unsure at 1-3. One would expect them to crack into the polls this week.
Will anyone step up in the passing game?
Skyler Howard was once again efficient. He was 31-40 (77.5%) for 332 yards, one TD, and one pick. It seems that Shelton Gibson got back to doing what he did so well last season. He is a big play WR. He caught only four balls yesterday, but racked up 144 yards. It could have been more, as one long ball down the near sideline was under thrown. Jovon Durante caught every pass thrown his way, and Daikiel Shorts was wide open in the end zone for Howard’s scoring pass. Ka’Raun White failed to put his money where his mouth was. After big words early in the week about BYU’s secondary, White managed only four catches for 39 yards on 7 targets.
Is the defense ready for conference play?
The defense did manage to intercept three passes. Rasul Douglas stepped right in front of a route and took the ball 54 yards to the house. The other two picks were on tipped balls. This defense is going to continue to be opportunistic if they want to produce in the Big 12.
That was the good news. The bad news is that the Cougars racked up 521 yards of total offense, including 280(!) on the ground. BYU came away with points all 5 times they entered the red zone, albeit twice settling for field goals. They also went 10-15 converting third downs.
Needless to say, all of these areas will need to be improved upon if the Mountaineers want to continue their winning ways.
Can the offense get out of its own way?
Justin Crawford carried the ball to the four yard line as the clock was winding down in the fourth quarter. All WVU had to do was hold onto the football and the game was over. Somehow, some way, Tyler Orlosky and Skyler Howard miscued a shotgun snap and the Cougars again had life. Red zone turnovers kill, particularly late in the fourth quarter. This offense will need to avoid these types of costly errors in the future.
It’s hard to project too much. There are many areas that have looked promising and just as many that will require adjustment. The really good news is that these tweaks are being made to a team that is 3-0.
Next week’s opponent, Kansas State, is 2-1 and put up a decent fight against a top 10 team in their only loss. It’s certainly too early to think too far ahead, but there is no doubt that the Big 12 dream scenario would come down to a matchup in the final week between a pair of undefeated teams (WVU and Baylor). If WVU wants to make that happen, they will need to get better on both sides of the ball and continue to build momentum.