I would argue that Saturday’s game was the best possible outcome for the West Virginia Mountaineers, better even than what the Marshall Thundering Herd did to Eastern Kentucky the week prior. For starters, you don’t want to be perfect in week one, you need some room for improvement. Secondly, we got to see Garret Greene, the freshman quarterback who has all fans excited for the future.
Jarret Doege and Austin Kendall
The difference between the two quarterbacks is undeniable at this point. Doege, who ranked as the 2nd highest graded quarterback by Pro Football Focus, looked like what you see on quarterbacks on Sunday. He stood tall in the pocket, he calmly delivered throws to his receivers, and he made decisive, strong throws to all spots on the field.
By contrast, Austin Kendall, last year’s starter, just can’t make these throws. He looked indecisive at times, he struggled to find the passing lanes, and he rarely anticipated windows. At this point, Kendall doesn’t deserve to be on the depth chart as QB2. He can’t be the backup. Do you feel comfortable if Doege is hurt and we need another QB? Do you want Kendall taking the reins? I don’t.
Greene’s debut was unspectacular from a stat-line perspective (3/4 for 24 yards, 5 runs for 33 yards, 57 total yards) but from an impact perspective, Greene was everything you would hope for a freshman, highly touted quarterback. He showed a strong arm, he showed mobility (!) and he showed decisiveness. It was obvious the coaches had a set of plays for Greene and didn’t deviate much from those plays, which makes sense given the game was going to be out of hand for him to see the field, but still Greene showed a bit of swagger and play making ability to make him dangerous if we needed to supplement Doege.
The New (and Improved?) Run Game
What a way to start off the year, by breaking off a run longer than anything you did in 2019. The run game is improved, there is no question about that. We couldn’t move the ball at all last year, even against the worst run defenses. We did run for almost 200 yards against Kansas last year, but that took almost 50 attempts and we finished the day with only 4 yards per carry. Normally when you run for that many yards, you’ve got a bigger average.
Leddie Brown looked decisive in his runs and he looked powerful. He showed all of those traits we’ve talked about for several years now and he displayed all of the extra abilities you hope develop. Brown had patience to let the holes open up, speed to hit the holes when they did and the power to run over people and break arm tackles. Even better, he took a swing pass on the second series and turned on the jets to score his second touchdown. Having a running back who is a threat out of the backfield is where good teams become great teams.
While we gush over Leddie Brown, rightfully, don’t lose sight of Alec Sinkfield. Sinkfield displayed afterburners at times and he appears to be the better pass catcher. He offers a better chance to split out wide and be a H-back and a more dynamic playmaker when needed.
It appears to be all gravy right now but if you would allow me to throw some cold water on your expectations, it was just Eastern Kentucky. The running is definitely improved but you can’t say its back to where it should be based on the competition. Unfortunately this is a situation where you can tell if something is bad right away but you can’t tell if its good. That will be determined over the course of the Big 12 schedule.
74!!!!! Let’s highlight the big man up front with the pancake and finish!!! I love it pic.twitter.com/RY1YxWaOm8— STEDMAN BAILEY SR (@iamSB3) September 12, 2020
The Sams And Bryce
Sam James did Sam James things. He led the team in catches, yards and was tied for first in touchdowns. All of that is exactly what you would expect but did you catch that he wasn’t the “starter”? It was curious and not really mentioned. Maybe it was the fact that it was EKU and Brown had a better week, or maybe it was the fact that they could play whomever they wanted and not worry but it is strange that your leading receiver from last year didn’t “start”.
That minor quibble aside, Sam James had a Sam James day. He looked fast, fluid, smooth, he caught passes and I don’t recall him dropping anything. Bryce Ford-Wheaton, however, did. He dropped a long rainbow from Doege and then dropped a sure-fire touchdown at the end of the second quarter. Doege came right back to Wheaton who caught a crossing pattern to score but the drops are concerning. Hopefully it was just first game jitters that will be forgotten as we move forward.