Thoughts From WVU’s Win Over East Carolina
We take a look at some of the positives and negatives in WVU’s 56-20 win over East Carolina on Saturday afternoon.
MORGANTOWN, W.Va.– West Virginia pummeled East Carolina 56-20 in its home opener on Saturday afternoon. While the score doesn’t naturally reflect the nature of the game, the Mountaineers cruised through the first half before running into trouble in the second.
Overall, their was many positives and a some negatives in WVU’s win.
1. Will Grier shines in first game at Milan Puskar Stadium
What else is there to say? Will Grier sizzled in the Mountaineers’ home opener. He threw for 352 yards and five touchdowns while completing 19-of-25 passes. The redshirt junior did that in basically under three quarters of action. Unlike last week Grier was sharp from the get-go. In two games, he has thrown for 723 yards and eight touchdowns with one interception. Unlike like some other quarterbacks, the Davidson, N.C. native can make plays other than with his arm. He isn’t afraid to take a hit or use his feet. Grier’s hustle and heart give him an edge.
2. Marcus Simms’ return big for offense
After serving a one-game suspension last week, Simms returned and looked sharp against the Pirates. He had one reception for 52 yards and one touchdown. After several years of abysmal punt returns, the sophomore appears to be the answer. Simms wasn’t afraid to return the ball and had one 21-yard return. Also, he ran back two kickoffs for 61 yards, including a long of 32. His speed was something WVU lacked against the Hokies on Sunday. Because ECU had to concentrate on him, it freed up either Ka’Raun White or David Sills.
3. David Sills continues to be go-to man in the endzone
For the second consecutive game, Sills dazzled on the field. The junior had three touchdowns for 173 yards, including a 75-yard gem from Grier towards the end of the first half. Sills and Grier just effortlessly mesh together.
4. Kyzir White became the brother with the hot hands
Last week the Mountaineers didn’t create any turnovers but that wasn’t the case on Saturday, thanks to White. The senior safety had two interceptions, his first at WVU. Last season White was unable to hang onto the ball when it hit his hands and he worked hard over the spring and summer to correct that. He finished the afternoon with two interceptions, a pass break-up, five tackles and a quarterback hurry. More games like that from White will benefit the young defensive unit.
5. Defense improved but still has a lot of work to do
The Mountaineers’ defense is still a work in progress. WVU gave up 470 yards to ECU. In the first, half WVU held the Pirates to just one field goal. But the struggles arose after the half. The starters gave up two touchdowns and the second team allowed the Pirates to get a 95-yard touchdown. They converted seven of 17 third downs in the second half. However, their were a few bright spots, including White’s rather impressive performance. The defense limited ECU quarterback Thomas Sirk to a 47 percent pass completion percentage on the afternoon. Communication between the defense was also a lot better this week. Al-Rasheed Benton had another solid game. The senior linebacker had eight tackles, one tackle for loss and one pass break-up.
6. Special teams improve in some areas but struggles in others
Special teams are still an area of concern for the Mountaineers. Obviously the improvement of punt and kickoff return is a big help. It’s been several years since WVU had that one reliable guy back there that could get some big yards. However, Mike Molina missed both field goals he attempted. The first one was a 44-yard one and the second was 45. Head coach Dana Holgorsen isn’t really concerned about Molina’s struggles this weekend because he knows he is sound from inside the 40. But there could come a time this season where the Mountaineers could use one from beyond the 40. Billy Kinney was better on punting this week. He averaged 40 yards per punt and had a long of 52.
7. The Run game is Strong
WVU’s got a dual-threat of going through the air or on the ground. Despite the stellar game from Grier and the receivers, the running backs had another solid performance. Justin Crawford had his second straight 100-plus-yard game, rushing for 118 yards and two touchdowns. Kennedy McKoy picked up a touchdown on 54 yards and Tevin Bush added 30.
Photo Credit: Kelsie LeRose, BGS