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West Virginia Mountaineers vs Eastern Kentucky Colonels - Season 128, Episode 1 - Start As You Mean To Go On

An unexpected opponent in an unfamiliar setting - can the Mountaineers handle their business in an empty Mountaineer Field and kick off Year 2 of The Climb the right way?

WHEN/WHERE

Date: September 12th, 2020

Time: 12pm EST

Venue: Mountaineer Field at Mylan Puskar Stadium, Morgantown, WV

HOW TO WATCH/LISTEN

TV: FS1

Radio: Click HERE for a complete list of radio affiliates in West Virginia. If you live outside of the state, or don’t live close enough to a radio affiliate, you can listen to the Mountaineer Sports Network from IMG on TuneIn Radio. We will also include the stream in our game thread, which will go live at 11:00 AM ET.

SiriusXM Satellite Radio will also be broadcasting the game on channel 81 on both Sirius and XM branded radios.

Streaming: FoxSports.com or the FoxSports app

DEGENERATES UNITE

Spread: WVU -40.5 (DraftKings)

Over/Under: 55.5 (DraftKings)

THREAD ALERT

Good Guys:

Bad Guys:

KNOW THE ENEMY

2020 Record: (0-1). Eastern Kentucky travelled down to Huntington last Saturday and got their stuff absolutely pushed in by a surprisingly frisky-looking Marshall team. Not a lot of positives to take away from a 59-0 beatdown.

Series History: (0-0). Saturday’s contest will be the first ever meeting between the Mountaineers and Colonels.

Head Coach: Walt Wells. Wells is in his first year in the job at Eastern Kentucky, but has two previous stints at the school from 1997-2002 and in 2015. He was most recently a quality control assistant at Kentucky in 2018 and 19.

Offensive Coordinator: Andy Richman. Richman is in his second stop at EKU after serving as a graduate assistant for the Colonels in 2002 and 2003. Richman previously worked as the offensive line coach and running game coordinator for the highly productive ground attack at New Mexico State.

Defensive Coordinator: Jake Johnson. Johnson is an EKU lifer, graduating from the school before spending 11 seasons at the defensive line coach from 2005-2015. Johnson joins Wells’ staff following a productive three year stint as the defensive coordinator at Murray State.

BY THE NUMBERS

5.2 - The number of yards that Marshall averaged per carry against Eastern Kentucky last weekend. Considering our own rushing woes, if I was coaching I would throw that number out as a challenge to our own offensive line - here’s what they did, now let’s go out and do better.

WHEN WE HAVE THE BALL

Key Players: LB Matthew Jackson, LB Eli Hairston

Let’s just say this up front: Eastern Kentucky’s defense looks pretty bad. I’m not sure if they graduated a bunch of people or what, but Marshall got absolutely everything they wanted last Saturday, rolling up 627 yards and 59 points in a route.

Schematically the Colonels run an odd front and seem to switch back and forth between an odd 3-3 stack and a 3-2-6 with the slot defenders walked up close to the line. They weren’t recklessly aggressive but certainly weren’t shy about sending pressure at Marshall QB Grant Wells, which unfortunately still backfired on them because they didn’t get to him as frequently as they needed to.

As for their dudes, they weren’t overly big or fast, though the two linebackers both put in solid shifts in the middle of their defense. Overall they very much look like what they are - a mid-level FCS defense. I’ll be disappointed if we don’t have our way with them.

What I’ll be watching: can our offensive line get push against their front 6?

Simply put, if we can’t move these guys out of the way then it’s going to be really hard to be optimistic about our ability to have any success running the ball in the Big 12 this year.

WHEN THEY HAVE THE BALL

Key Players: QB Parker McKinney, QB Dakota Allen, RB Alonzo Booth

The Colonels are probably the only team we’ll see this year that’ll play multiple quarterbacks on purpose. McKinney started against the Herd and played about as well as could be expected considering the result, completing 7 of 10 passes for 70 yards and no interceptions. Allen has started multiple games for Eastern in his career there but played sparingly against Marshall, completing just 3 of 5 passes for 10 yards and a pick. It’s worth noting that both of these guys seem to move around decently well, so we’ll have to be sure we remember maintain gap discipline in what I assume might turn into a race to the quarterback.

The most notable of their skill guys is running back Alonzo Booth, who garnered 2nd team OVC honors last year after rushing for 673 yards and 14 touchdowns. He didn’t manage much production last weekend, but at 6’1 250 he’s an absolute unit who at the very least should provide a solid week 1 tackling test for our group.

Based on my viewing last weekend they run mostly 11 or 12 personnel, though they were under center more than most of the teams we’ll play this year. When they went 12, they often went to an overloaded twins look with two tight ends to the field and two wide receivers staggered to the short side. None of this should be unfamiliar to us and they didn’t see to do anything overly tricky, so hopefully we're to avoid too many opening game miscues with regards to recognition or alignment. As with the defense, they kinda just are what they are, and I’ll be concerned if they give us any real trouble.

What I’ll be watching for: which of the young guys stand out?

Considering the free year of eligibility being granted to all incoming freshmen, I expect just about everyone to get a chance to play this year, and especially in this game. I’m not expecting it to be close past halftime, so I’ll be keeping an eye on guys like Akheem Mesidor, Daryl Porter Jr., Sean Martin, and Jalen Thornton, who we are clearly going to be relying on this year based on their inclusion in the two-deep.

FINAL THOUGHTS/PREDICTION

I expect EKU to play better than they did a week ago, but I also don’t expect it to matter. As unfair and silly as it may be, the fact that Marshall threw down the gauntlet and beat these guys 59-0 means that anything less than a blowout win this Saturday will be looked at as a failure. With that in mind, I'm expecting our guys to come out looking to make a statement against the Colonels, in so much as beating an FCS team from the Ohio Valley Conference can be considered making a statement.

My ideal day would include healthy doses of Brown and Sinkfield early to show that our running game has a pulse, sprinkled in with plenty of touches in space for both James and Wright. Maybe a shot or two to Bryce Wheaton. Stills bros just absolutely wreaking havoc on the other side, with Tykee Smith flying all over the place making plays and no big plays on the back end. Just a nice, crispy win to send us on our way to Stillwater with a bit of pep in the ol’ step. LET’S GO!!!

West Virginia 56 Eastern Kentucky 10