West Virginia Bests Missouri 26-11, Moves To 1-0 After Major Opening Tilt

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - West Virginia's unrelenting romp over Missouri likely should have been more lopsided than what it was. As it is, both Skyler Howard and Tony Gibson will take the win.

While the score won't jump off the screen like some others, the Mountaineers' victory was rather complete. WVU's offense controlled a vaunted pass rush while racking up 253 passing yards behind Howard's 23-of-35 effort. The running game gashed Missouri all game long, and both Rushel Shell (90 yards on 16 carries) and Justin Crawford (101 yards, 21 attempts) scored, while Elijah Wellman provided the late-game physicality needed to grind down a very solid SEC defense. Howard, above, speaks to his ability to return from injury, and gives his thoughts on the pass protection provided by an outstanding line performance.

Howard was hit on occasion, but All-SEC edge rusher Charles Harris never generated the type of pressure the Tigers needed, even when starting left tackle Yodny Cajuste was forced out of the game with a right knee injury. That shifted Colton McKivitz into the position, and even the redshirt freshman handled what most expect to be a first round pick in the NFL draft. Howard would leave the game late in the first half with a rib injury, but returned to start the third quarter, promptly leading an eight-play, 70-yard drive the boosted West Virginia's lead to 20-3 and set the tone for the remainder of the game.

WVU's defense, meanwhile, limited Missouri to just 10 third down conversions in 24 tries, and kept the Tigers out of the end zone until the final two minutes. The Mountaineers allowed just three points - although UM's Tucker McCann badly miss-hit a pair of field goal tries - and quite simply shut down the majority of UM's offense threats, including running back Alex Ross. Missouri ran 100 plays, but scored just 11 points even while moving between the 20s at times. It wasn't an A+ performance from the defense, but coordinator Tony Gibson, below, seemed pleased overall with the result against an offense that operated as quickly as any he had seen.

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