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THE SHOTGUN THROWDOWN: Taijh Alston has overcome injuries to lead West Virginia’s defensive line

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Good morning! This is the Shotgun Throwdown, your daily West Virginia sports roundup.

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

Welcome, By-Godders, to The Shotgun Throwdown, WVU’s best place for sports links, information, sophomoric humor, and daily distractions.

DEFENSIVE LEADER

Redshirt junior Taijh Alston suffered three major injuries during his first four years in college football. The standout defensive lineman tore his ACL as a freshman at East Carolina in 2017, tore that same ACL in 2019 after arriving at West Virginia, and tore his Achilles tendon before the 2020 season. Now Alston is in his fifth year of college football, and his third as a Mountaineer, and he is stepping up as the leader of the WVU defensive line.

Alston is leading the Mountaineers with four sacks and seven tackles for loss this season. That puts him at first in the Big 12 and ninth nationally in tackles for loss. He also has 18 total tackles and has had at least one tackle for loss in all five of WVU’s games this year. Dante Stills and Akheem Mesidor have joined forces with Alston on the Mountaineers’ d-line. The three have combined for 47 tackles, 16 TFLs, and 9.5 sacks.

Hopefully Alston can continue to stay healthy so he can make the most of his first full season in college football.

PRESEASON ALL-BIG 12 HONORS

The West Virginia women’s basketball team is preparing for the 2021-22 season to begin, and three Mountaineers have been named to the Preseason All-Big 12 teams. Junior forward Esmery Martinez was unanimously named to the Preseason All-Big 12 Team. Senior forward Kari Niblack and junior guard KK Deans earned Preseason All-Big 12 Honorable Mention.

Martinez was an All-Big 12 First Team selection last season after averaging a double-double, with 13.6 points and 11.6 rebounds per game. Niblack averaged 9.1 points, 5.1 rebounds, and 1.6 blocks per game in 2020-21 and was an All-Big 12 Honorable Mention. Deans was also an All-Big 12 Honorable Mention last year after averaging 13.7 points and 3.7 assists per game.

The preseason rankings have not been released yet, but many believe the Mountaineers will be a top-25 team and will compete with Baylor and Iowa State at the top of the Big 12.

WEST VIRGINIA ROUNDUP

  • The West Virginia women’s soccer team has moved to ninth in the national rankings. The jump follows the Mountaineers’ 2-0 win over Oklahoma. Senior defender Jordan Brewster helped keep the Sooners scoreless in the match, making her the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Week. WVU is on a five-game winning streak and returns to the pitch tonight at Kansas State.
  • Following a draw with Akron, the West Virginia men’s soccer team dropped one spot in the national rankings to #4. The Mountaineers then traveled to Lehigh where they came away with another tie, 1-1. Senior forward Yoran Popovic scored WVU’s lone goal less than a minute into the match, while the Mountain Hawks needed a penalty kick to score their only goal.
  • Junior Ceili McCabe broke the West Virginia cross country team record and finished in first place at the Louisville Classic. McCabe’s career best time of 16:27.8 helped the Mountaineers finish in third place as a team and earned her the honor of being the Big 12 Runner of the Week.

AROUND THE BIG 12

  • Only six Big 12 football teams will be in action this week, but one of the three conference games is one of the league’s biggest rivalries. #6 Oklahoma will be meeting #21 Texas at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas for the Red River Showdown. The undefeated Sooners are favored by more than a field goal and the game will be nationally televised on ABC at noon ET.
  • The other two Big 12 games this week will also take place in Texas. West Virginia is traveling to Waco to face Baylor on FS1 at noon ET. The Mountaineers enter this matchup with a two-game losing streak and as three-point underdogs. The third conference game is between TCU and Texas Tech in Lubbock on Saturday night at 7:00 PM ET on ESPN.

AROUND THE NCAA

  • College football has lots of big matchups this week. We already talked about the Red River Shootout, and the Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry is also taking place this week on CBS at 3:30 PM ET. #2 Georgia is facing its rival #18 Auburn. The undefeated Bulldogs enter this game as College Football Playoff contenders and are favored by over two touchdowns. Another SEC rivalry is taking place at noon ET on ESPN, when #13 Arkansas travels to #17 Ole Miss.
  • Despite all of those rivalry matchups, the biggest game of the week will likely be between #3 Iowa and #4 Penn State. Both teams are undefeated and leading their respective divisions in the Big Ten. So, the winner of this game will keep its playoff hopes alive, while the loser will likely fall behind in the playoff chase. The Hawkeyes are slight favorites at home and the game will be on FOX at 4:00 PM ET.

ODDS AND ENDS

  • Multiple videos and pictures have emerged of Urban Meyer in suggestive situations with at least one woman who was not his wife at his restaurant in Columbus, Ohio, but it appears that the Jacksonville Jaguars head coach believes his apologies are enough to avoid any situation where he would step down from his position. The drama has undoubtedly lost Meyer much of the respect that he had in his locker room, and some believe that he had little respect to begin with after starting the season 0-4.
  • The 2021 MLB Playoffs are underway, and they started with the American League Wild Card Game. The Boston Red Sox knocked off their rival New York Yankees, 6-2, to advance to the AL Division Series against the Rays.

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