A new era, a new beginning and a new tradition were all born on Saturday as the West Virginia Mountaineers began the Neal Brown era. It was only a 20-13 win against a Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) team but James Madison proved that they are not your normal cupcake opener. The Dukes are a national title contender in their own league and came to Morgantown ready to deliver an upset.
I Think Halftime Adjustments Are Awesome
If you take anything away from this game, its that the staff can adjust at halftime. In the first half, outside of the one field goal drive, the Mountaineers ran 21 plays for 44 yards. After halftime, the Mountaineers came out and immediately scored a touchdown, going 82 yards in 7 plays as Austin Kendall found George Campbell in the endzone. That was significant because Kendall looked uncomfortable early on and the run game was not there. The staff was able to adjust quickly and get the momentum shifted back to the Mountaineers.
I Expect Teams To Load the Box
James Madison did exactly what I would have done if I was them, stack 8 in the box and dare the new quarterback who hasn’t played in three years to beat me. The Mountaineers started the game with safe passes for Kendall but the Dukes refused to let the running backs beat them. WVU finished the day with 34 yards on 24 carries with the longest run at five yards. I expect that is exactly what teams will do until Kendall shows he can beat them consistently over the top. The good news for the Mountaineers is that receivers found ways to get open. Kendall should get better as the season develops, but for now, look for teams to continue to stack the box with an 8th defender.
I Think The Stills Brothers Are Going To Wreak Havoc
The defensive line just looks different when it is occupied by both Dante and Darius Stills. Dante Stills is obviously a beast but his brother Darius has flashed an ability to disrupt offenses and split double teams. Between the brothers there were 9 tackles, 2 sacks and 3 tackle for losses. We all thought the defensive line would be the strength of the team and when both Stills brothers are in the game, the line absolutely is the strength of the team.
I think Austin Kendall will be good
It can be tough to play a position like quarterback deftly with all of the precision and timing and accuracy required when you haven’t played consistently in three years. Some of this goes back to my point earlier in camp when I said that Brown needed to pick a quarterback. The more time a player has to know he’s the number one and work on timing with his receivers, the better. Kendall showed that he can get the ball down the field and he showed that he can finally deliver touch when he found Tevin Bush for the go ahead score. Kendall remarked that he knew he had to make a good pass so he intentionally took a bit off and it turned out to be just right as the pass floated into the hands of Bush.
You may not remember, but the first half against Virginia Tech, Will Grier wasn’t the sharpest. He didn’t take as long as it seemed to take Kendall but Grier was definitely better in the second half than he was in the first half against VT.
I Think You Should Be Concerned
In the long run, this team is going to find its feet and its direction but for now, there is some concerning things that happened Saturday. For one, the Mountaineers gained under 300 yards of offense. That is bad for an NFL offense and really bad for a college offense. It is made even worse when that is against a FCS team, no matter how good they may be.
Overall, statistically this was a bad game for us. The Mountaineers lost time of possession, gave up more first downs, gave up more total yards, gave up more yards per pass attempt, gave up more yards per rush and in general did not have a good game. Those numbers will have to improve if the Mountaineers are going to be good, even if its long term. If you, like me, thought this team could make a bowl game this year, then the team is going to have to improve in all areas.