The West Virginia Mountaineers opened the season with a lackluster victory over the William & Mary Tribe.
A touchdown scored by freshman running back Wendell Smallwood broke a 17-all tie late in the fourth quarter giving WVU the lead for good at 24-17. The Mountaineers scored 17 unanswered points in the second half to squeak out the win.
West Virginia scored on their opening drive as senior Charles Sims ended an eight play, 67 yard drive, with an 11 yard touchdown run.
William & Mary gained offensive momentum late in the first quarter when Michael Graham threw to receiver Trey McBride for a 40-yard pass play. Darnell Laws capped off the drive, locking the game up at 7-7 after one quarter. During the second quarter they really started to turn things up a notch, scoring 10 unanswered points going into halftime.
Florida State transfer Clint Trickett entered the game in the second quarter for WVU, but was not impressive at all. He did not complete a pass on 2 attempts. West Virginia struggled offensively for most of the first half, but did gain 201 yards before halftime.
The Mountaineers opened the second half with an important scoring drive. It took 15 plays and 70 yards, as they ended the drive with a field goal, which cut the lead to a 17-10 William & Mary advantage.
The next possession, William and Mary was moving the ball until a 15 yard personal foul penalty on Zacc Fetters. Then the Tribe were forced to punt.
The Mountaineers responded in a big way with a long pass play from quarterback Paul Millard to receiver Ronald Carswell. The play was a huge momentum builder for the offense and rejuvenated the crowd as well.
Mountaineer fans held their collective breath as Carswell raced for the touchdown. He beat the defense badly and was about five to ten yards ahead of the cornerback on the play. The Mountaineers will be needing a lot more of that if they are to compete with Oklahoma next week on a national stage.
The WVU defense tightened things up in the second half. Getting more pressure on the Tribe quarterback and stuffing a few screen plays.
There was a lot of the same from the secondary that we witnessed last season, which obviously isn’t good news. Another main issue is there’s rarely ever any pass rush from the defensive line to help out the secondary.
The cornerback play is still very poor, as William & Mary threw over the top with ease early in the game. The Mountaineer corners looked lost at times and I was really hoping to see much more of an improvement from the secondary. The safety play was plenty good enough, but the corners are surely a cause for concern once again.
WVU gave up 7.7 yards per-pass play and struggled at times to get off the field on third downs. Which was a problem all last season as well.
The defense was solid against the run, giving up an average of 3.3 yards per-rush on 31 attempts. The Tribe did manage to gain 102 yards on the ground, but the run defense was pretty stout.
The Mountaineers did have 409 yards of total offense, 237 yards were through the air. Millard seemed to be much more comfortable with the offense than Trickett and I would imagine they’ll go with Millard at Oklahoma next week. He gives WVU the best chance to hang in the game, as long as he doesn’t force the ball in tight situations.
It’s good to get off on the right foot with a victory, but the Mountaineers have a long way to go. A ton of improvement is needed on both sides of the ball.
In conclusion, the cornerback play must improve, it’s vital to the season becoming a success, if it can’t at least get back to respectability, we’ll have another long season on our hands in Morgantown, plain and simple.