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What I Think Following Gary Jenning’s 3-TD Performance

A lot of young Mountaineers grew up yesterday.

NCAA Football: Youngstown State at West Virginia Ben Queen-USA TODAY Sports

Marcus Simms Grows Up

The talk all offseason was how the West Virginia Mountaineers had one of the best receiving corps in the nation. Led by David Sills and Gary Jennings, the Mountaineers certainly boast one of the better combos but the ‘Eers needed more than just those two to catch passes. Marcus Simms was the third receiver in the group and against Youngstown State, he grew up.

Simms showed remarkable ability to sit down in the holes in zone coverage, especially on third down. His ability to not only find the holes in coverage but turn critical downs into yards after catch (YAC) has turned the tide twice this season. Against Tennessee in the opening drive of the second half, Grier rifled a ball on a slant to Simms and he slipped out of a calf-collar tackle to pick up additional yardage. Saturday, Simms sat down in coverage on curl routes and then slipped around defenders for additional yardage. Then, in the third quarter with WVU leading 28-14, Simms reached around a defender on a slightly underthrown ball to make a spectacular catch that lead to a backbreaking touchdown. Simms’ ability to make those catches will make him an even more difficult matchup and take this offense to another level.

Gary Jennings’ Hat Trick

You do you son! One of the worst things about the 2017 season was the fact that Gary Jennings broke the 1,000 yard barrier, nearly broke the 100-reception barrier and caught one touchdown, a reception he took from a Virginia Tech linebacker and ran for a score. Gary earned the right to score more and he did so Saturday. Dana had a great quip

The Slow Start On Offense

To be honest, as I sit here and write, the slow start on offense does not bother me and in fact, I kinda like that we “struggled” against the Penguins. I want this team to continue to improve and I never want them to feel like they’ve hit the pinnacle of their work. They should find things to fix, things to do better and things that be shown to younger players every single game. This was a game everyone expected the team to come out, hit a few long touchdowns and put the backups in.

Bo Pelini likely gave you a preview of how many teams are going to defend West Virginia. Pelini sold out to stop the pass, playing Cover 3/Cover 4 most of the game. What that meant is that he had three or four deep players, trying to make the Mountaineers dink and dunk down the field. The way you attack that is you run the damn ball. You line up and you run the ball down the throat of your opponent until he can’t take it anymore.

Grier and the team wanted some early killshots, the same the way they did against Tennessee. Luckily, the team settled down and allowed the stable of running backs to exert their will on the Penguins. They ran powerfully through the tackles and showed off speed once they hit the second and third levels. When teams get tired of that, they will start bringing safeties down in the box and then we can go deep early in games.

The Stable of Running Backs

Alec Sinkfield got the start but we once again saw a running back by committee approach with Sinkfield, Martell Pettaway, Leddie Brown and Kennedy McKoy. I truly think the staff can’t tell a difference between the four. Each brings a different skillset and provided that Sinkfield and Brown are able to at least show some level of blitz protection, they will continue to see the field.

Martell Pettaway is running like one of our most complete backs. Pettaway is showing off good speed when he gets to the second level. He needs to stop spinning and start using that body to level defenders. The staff seems to like Pettaway early as a way to hit some body blows on the defense.

Alec Sinkfield looks like the fastest of the bunch and I was extremely happy to see him score the first touchdown of the game on a sweep handoff.

NCAA Football: Youngstown State at West Virginia Ben Queen-USA TODAY Sports

Leddie Brown may just be the tailback we have been clamoring for since Amos Zereoue. Brown has power, speed, physicality, elusiveness, you name it and he has it. You can see why the staff was enamored with him on the recruiting trail and even more why they continue to heap praise on him.

Kennedy McKoy appears to have taken on the role of “closer”. The staff wants an experienced back when the game is in the fourth quarter and McKoy looks like that. McKoy gives the staff one of its best receiving options out of the backfield along with a slippery back who can find a small hole and turn it into positive yards.

The Defense

I’ve seen a lot of hand-wringing over the defense through two games but allow me to drop some stats your way on the defense through two games:

Passing: 30/49 (61%) for 329 yards, 2 touchdowns, 1 interception, 3 sacks, 4 hurries

Rushing: 74 rushes, 265 yards for 3.5 yards per carry, 2 touchdowns.

The defense has generated 21 tackles for loss through two games. Each game has featured one long touchdown drive but has also featured two teams going a combined 9-26 on third down. The defense is doing a good job of generating stops when it gets teams into 3rd down so far. It’s hard to tell without reviewing the tape more whether Gibson is trying new things at the moment and not worrying too much about game results knowing how well the offense is or if he is being coy and not showing his hand to future opponents.

Next Week’s Game

By the time you read this, the storm in the Atlantic will have strengthened into Hurricane Florence. It is expected by Tuesday evening it will be classified as a major hurricane (Category 3 or higher). It is expected to make landfall late Thursday night or Friday morning.

Hurricane Florence landfall

What this means for West Virginia and the N.C. State Wolfpack is that they may not be able to play their scheduled game on Saturday. The logistics of the game are a challenge. The two teams could choose to move the game to Morgantown and flip the home teams. However, that poses a challenge for the Mountaineers come 2019. The ‘Eers only have four conference home games. They have a scheduled home game with James Madison so if they flip home games with NCSt, they would only get five home games in 2019. That won’t fly with Shane Lyons. In order to make it work, the Mountaineers would likely have to buy out of the Missouri game, at a cost of $1 million to break the contract. Then the Mountaineers would need to buy a FCS opponent to come to Morgantown at an approximate cost of $400k. So flipping the games would cost WVU close to 1.5 million.

The two teams could opt to move the game to another “neutral” site and give the gate proceeds to the ‘Pack. There are some challenges with that as Wolfpack fans are not likely to travel to the game given the major hurricane on their homesteads. WVU fans travel but they aren’t going to buy 80,000 tickets on short notice.

Another option is just to break the contract on the (assumed to be) Act of God clause. The two teams could look at trying to play the game at a later date, like championship weekend if neither team is playing that weekend. Of course the trouble is that the Mountaineers think they will be playing that weekend. The Wolfpack are probably not going to be playing that weekend but they wouldn’t know until they play Clemson.

The last option is to break the game and do nothing. The rub there is what happens if either team is sitting at 5 wins and needs a 12th game to gain bowl eligibility, then what do you do, especially if one team is playing that weekend? I don’t know if the other team has to pay for those ramifications or not.