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THE SHOTGUN THROWDOWN: Winston Wright gives West Virginia a storybook start to its home opener

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

NCAA Football: LIU 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.

STORYBOOK START

The first West Virginia football game at Milan Puskar Stadium without attendance restrictions since the 2019 season could not have started in a better way. WVU wide receiver Winston Wright Jr. took the opening kickoff back for a 90-yard touchdown, as the crowd of over 50,000 fans erupted in excitement. That opening play set the tone for what ended up being an enjoyable day for Mountaineer fans, as the game was never in question and WVU rolled to a 66-0 blowout win.

Wright showed his big play ability in WVU’s season opener at Maryland, accumulating a program record of 217 kick return yards, and this past week he got his first touchdown return of the season and the second of his career. Having a returner that can not only change the team’s field position, but change the entire game, is a valuable asset for the Mountaineers. To put Wright’s kick return ability in perspective, only four other players in WVU football history have returned multiple kickoffs for touchdowns. Those four Mountaineers are Tavon Austin, Shawn Terry, Nate Terry, and Mario Alford, and now Wright has joined that elite company.

WVU head coach Neal Brown knows that Wright’s big play ability is a game changer for the Mountaineers. With that in mind, Brown might decide to put Wright back on punt returns for WVU’s upcoming rivalry game against #15 Virginia Tech.

2020 WVU SPORTS HALL OF FAME CLASS

Mountaineer fans will be up early this Saturday to tailgate before West Virginia’s matchup against #15 Virginia Tech, but many fans will be making their way from the Blue Lot to the Caperton Indoor Practice Facility for WVU’s 30th annual Sports Hall of Fame induction at 9:00 a.m. ET. This ceremony is a make-up induction for the 2020 class and the event is free of charge.

The class is headlined by men’s basketball legends Da’Sean Butler and Tony Robertson, former football standouts Ron Wolfley and Richard “Dick” Leftridge, and Jedd Gyorko and Tom Shafer representing the WVU baseball program. The class also features many other Mountaineer greats, including women’s basketball player Janis Denise “JD” Drummonds, former gymnast Janáe (Cox) Asbury, John McGrath of the men’s soccer team, women’s cross country and track standout Clara (Grandt) Santucci, and John Rost from the WVU rifle program.

MEN’S SOCCER KEEPS ROLLING

After getting its bus stuck on a Morgantown hill while taking an unexplainable detour through Sunnyside on Thursday, the Ohio State men’s soccer team was dominated by #5 West Virginia on Friday night. The Mountaineers were motivated by another rowdy home crowd and came away with a 1-0 win. There were 2,443 fans in attendance, which is the second-largest crowd at Dick Dlesk Soccer Stadium in Mountaineer men’s soccer history. Fifth-year defender Kevin Morris scored WVU’s lone goal by getting a header on a corner kick in the third minute of the match.

WEST VIRGINIA ROUNDUP

  • It was very evident that quarterback Garrett Greene added a new dynamic to the West Virginia offense with his rushing ability on Saturday, but did he impress his coaches as much as he impressed the fans? WVU head coach Neal Brown noted that the redshirt freshman appeared to be going off script more than he would like to see. Greene had 57 passing yards by completing four of his seven passes. He also led all players with 98 rushing yards on 14 attempts and had two rushing touchdowns.
  • The #18 West Virginia women’s soccer team dominated Saint Francis in a 5-0 win on Sunday. The five Mountaineers that scored in the match were junior Julianne Vallerand, senior forward Lauren Segalla, senior midfielder Isabella Sibley, freshman midfielder Leah Sparacio, and freshman forward Dilary Heredia-Beltran.
  • The West Virginia volleyball team is off to a great start this season. The Mountaineers earned three wins at the WNY Invitational in Buffalo, New York, last week to improve to 8-0 this year. The undefeated Mountaineers are also receiving votes in the national rankings. WVU hosts the Mountaineer Invitational later this week, where it will face George Washington, UMBC, and #20 Penn State.

AROUND THE BIG 12

  • Out of all of Week 2’s games, one of the most enjoyable ones for Big 12 fans was #15 Texas getting embarrassed by its future SEC opponent Arkansas, 40-21. The Razorbacks dominated the Longhorns in a game that ended with U of A students rushing the field as “Horns Down” flashed on the stadium jumbotrons. Hopefully this game was a glimpse into the future of Texas football in the SEC.
  • #10 Iowa State fell to #9 Iowa, 27-17, at home in the Battle for the Cy-Hawk Trophy on Saturday. Senior quarterback Brock Purdy had a miserable showing for the Cyclones with three interceptions and zero touchdowns.
  • Oklahoma State headlined the Week 2 Big 12 football awards by having senior linebacker Malcolm Rodriguez earn Co-Defensive Player of the Week honors and senior running back LD Brown was the Special Teams Player of the Week. Baylor’s JT Woods joined Rodriguez as the conference Co-Defensive Player of the Week. TCU sophomore running back Zach Evans was the Offensive Player of the Week and Kansas State defensive end Felix Anudike-Uzomah was the Big 12 Newcomer of the Week.

AROUND THE NCAA

  • One of the most stunning upsets of Week 2 was #12 Oregon’s 35-28 road win at #3 Ohio State. Running back C.J. Verdell had 161 rushing yards and three rushing touchdowns for the Ducks. Will this loss spoil the Buckeyes College Football Playoff hopes or will we be hearing how this was a “quality loss” later this season?
  • #14 USC lost to its rival Stanford, 42-28, this week. Following the loss at home, USC head coach Clay Helton was fired, resulting in associate head coach Donte Williams being named the interim head coach.

ODDS AND ENDS

  • Week 1 of the 2021 NFL season did not disappoint. Kansas City, the reigning AFC Champion, had to mount an incredible comeback to defeat Cleveland at home, 33-29. The Browns led 22-10 going into halftime, but beat themselves with turnovers and an inability to prevent giving up big plays on defense.
  • Most football fans would have expected Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers to completely outplay New Orleans’ Jameis Winston, but that was not the case on Sunday. Winston had five passing touchdowns and 148 passing yards for the Saints, while Rodgers had two interceptions in the Packers’ 38-3 blowout loss.

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