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THE SHOTGUN THROWDOWN: Winston Wright sets WVU record with kick returns

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

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COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 04 West Virginia at Maryland Photo by Mark Goldman/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

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

WRIGHT’S BIG PLAY, GAME-CHANGING ABILITY SHOWS IN SEASON OPENER

If I asked you who is the only football player to ever exceed 200 kick return yards in a game for West Virginia, you would probably guess Tavon Austin. Tavon seems like the obvious answer, but it is actually Winston Wright and it happened in WVU’s season opening loss at Maryland. Wright did have one of the teams four turnovers when he muffed a punt, but the positive impact of his five kick returns for 217 yards outweighed the negative impact of that one fumble.

Wright’s first return was a respectable one for 22 yards after the Terrapins’ opening field goal. The Mountaineers then faced a 17-7 deficit late in the first quarter, but Wright brought the momentum back on their side with a 98-yard return to the two-yard line that led to an easy touchdown run by Leddie Brown. The massive return was a huge play for WVU because it kept the team in the game. It also kept the players and the fans from getting down and suddenly hushed the enthusiastic UMD crowd.

Wright started the second half off with a solid 29-yard return to the 35-yard line. And he tried to give the Mountaineers one more game changing play when they were down 23-21 in the fourth quarter. He had another breakaway return that looked as if it may be a touchdown, but it was ruled that Wright stepped out of bounds near midfield for a 48-yard return.

Wright’s big play ability in the kick return game proved to be a momentum swinger and a game changer for the Mountaineers. If he and the rest of the kick return team can continue executing their scheme, it could be a valuable asset for WVU this season.

OFFENSIVE LETDOWN LEADS TO SEASON OPENING LOSS

It’s very hard to win a college football game when you only score three points in the second half. It’s even harder to win when you turn the ball over four times in the game. West Virginia proved that these two things are a detrimental combination in its 30-24 loss at Maryland on Saturday.

Neal Brown and the WVU coaching staff boasted all summer about Jarret Doege’s improvement during the offseason, but the Mountaineer quarterback failed to show any significant advancement in the season opener. Even with Doege’s supposed improvement, the WVU offense should have been planning to rely on Preseason All-Big 12 running back Leddie Brown. Brown did not appear to receive the bulk of the offensive workload, considering he only had 17 carries compared to Doege’s 40 pass attempts.

The offensive struggles and miscues have Neal Brown and the Mountaineers regrouping and desperate for improvement to make sure the WVU fans keep trusting the climb.

WEST VIRGINIA ROUNDUP

AROUND THE BIG 12

  • The Big 12 Conference has announced the first round of weekly awards and Texas Tech took half of the honors after their impressive 38-21 win over Dana Holgorsen’s Houston Cougars. Riko Jeffers and Reggie Pearson Jr. earned the Defensive Player of the Week and Newcomer of the Week awards for the Red Raiders. Bijan Robinson was the Offensive Player of the Week after getting 176 yards and two touchdowns for Texas. Oklahoma’s Gabe Brkic was the Special Teams Player of the Week.
  • All 10 Big 12 football teams were in action this week and nine of them came away 1-0. West Virginia was the only team to lose. The biggest win of the week for the conference was #21 Texas’ 38-18 win over #23 Louisiana.

AROUND THE NCAA

  • Minnesota running back Mohamed Ibrahim was putting on a show in Thursday night’s game against Ohio State. Ibrahim had 163 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 30 carries before a lower-leg injury in the third quarter ended his game and his season. It was fun to watch Ibrahim run all over the Buckeyes, and after watching West Virginia’s loss to Maryland, I couldn’t help but wish that Leddie Brown would have gotten a significant number of touches like Ibrahim did.
  • #5 Georgia overcame #3 Clemson in a defensive battle on Saturday night. There were no offensive touchdowns in the game, with Christopher Smith’s 74-yard pick-six being the only touchdown, and the Bulldogs left Charlotte with a 10-3 win and lots of momentum. The game left many wondering if the Tigers could consistently compete for playoff spots if they were in the dominant SEC instead of the weaker ACC.

ODDS AND ENDS

  • Amid allegations against Deshaun Watson for sexual assault and other inappropriate behavior, Tyrod Taylor has been named the starting quarterback for the Houston Texans. Taylor, who is under a one-year contract, has started in 47 NFL games over the past 10 years and has passed for 9,770 yards and 54 touchdowns.
  • YouTube star turned boxer, Jake Paul, has continued to prove the doubters wrong by beating former professional basketball player Nate Robinson, former UFC grappler Ben Askren, and former UFC champion Tyron Woodley. Now UFC welterweight contender Jorge Masvidal wants a shot at Jake Paul and his brother Logan in the boxing ring.

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