MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - Skyler Howard passed for 263 yards and three touchdowns, leading WVU to its second win of the 2015 season over Liberty at Mountaineer Field.
Senior linebacker Jared Baber was inactive for today’s game after his shoulder “popped out” in the third quarter against Georgia Southern last week. It was the first game action Barber had seen since tearing his ACL against Texas in 2013. Redshirt sophomore Al-Rasheed Benton filled in for Barber, making his first career start as a Mountaineer. Benton made his presence felt, registering five solo tackles and flying to the ball on almost every snap.
Dana Holgorsen did his best to get quarterback Skyler Howard into a groove early in the passing game, calling nothing but quick hitters on the first drive of the game. Freshman wide receiver Jovon Durante was targeted four times on the Mountaineers’ first possession and hauled in three catches on the drive.
Howard showed off his speed on the Mountaineers second drive of the game, breaking off a 34-yard run on 3rd-and-17. This is the added element he brings to WVU’s offense. While he may still be raw as a passer, he causes problems for opposing defenses with his versatility because you can never anticipate when he’ll tuck it and run.
The Mountaineers red zone woes from last week reared their ugly head again today, as they were forced to settle for field goals on their first two trips inside the 20. Howard was 0-for-3 passing on those two trips, and appeared to have a window to fit the ball into as Shelton Gibson beat his man to the back pylon, but the ball sailed and WVU had to kick. Those problems were remedied as the game went on, however, as West Virginia scored touchdowns on its next four red zone trips.
Shelton Gibson broke the ice, scoring WVU’s first touchdown of the day on a quick comeback route that he broke into a 52-yard TD. Howard got it to him, albeit a little low, and Gibson burned the Flames’ secondary down the sideline for his second touchdown of the season.
Josh Lambert missed his first field goal of the season on the last play of the first half. His 54-yard attempt appeared to be tipped at the line of scrimmage, as it floundered through the air and fell short of the uprights by a few yards. Lambert was 4-for-5 on kicks over 50 yards in 2014, and is now 5-for-11 for his career on such kicks.
Jovon Durante continued his impressive start to his collegiate career, scoring his second touchdown as a Mountaineer on a 10-yard strike from Skyler Howard mid-way through the third quarter. Durante was featured early and often in this game, and if the first two games of the season are any indicator, he is going to be a major factor in Holgorsen’s offense in 2015 and for years to come.
The WVU defense’s shutout streak came to an end with 4:35 left in the third quarter when Flames running back Todd Macon found the end zone from seven yards out. The Mountaineer defense held its opponents scoreless for 100 minutes and 25 seconds to start the season.