Observations and Analysis From WVU's 26-11 Victory Over Missouri

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - There is a lot that can be gleaned from West Virginia's opening day victory, here are some of the things that stood out in the Mountaineers first game.

  • First and foremost it was refreshing to see how well the defense played today. The first defensive series resulted in a three-and-out and that set the tone for a Mountaineer defense that came into the season replacing nine starters. The Mountaineers will certainly play better offenses down the road but the fact that the Mountaineer starters were able to hold Missouri to three points was refreshing to see.
  • On the offensive side of the football the inability to score touchdowns in the redzone was mildly disappointing (the Mountaineers settled for four FGs in the redzone) but some of that could have been a byproduct of facing a stout Missouri front seven. After the game Dana Holgorsen spoke about Missouri's defensive line and how they played a factor in making it tough for the Mountaineers to score touchdowns. Although 26 points was enough today they will need more against some of the high powered teams they will face in the Big 12.
  • Outside of failing to recover an onside kick late in the game the special teams were very solid today. The Mountaineers replaced their punter and kicker (due to suspension) this year and both Mike Molina and Billy Kinney were impressive. Gary Jennings took a few unnecessary shots as he should have called fair catch on some punt returns early, but he still displayed the ability to consistently catch the ball.
  • It was surprising to see how much success the Mountaineers had running the ball on Missouri's defensive line. West Virginia was able to rush for 241 yards and the West Virginia offensive line definitely won the battle up front, despite being down two starters for most of the game. This Missouri defensive line could be as good as any the Mountaineers will face all year, so it was a very encouraging start to the season for the Mountaineers in the trenches.
  • Justin Crawford looks like the real deal. He shows an ability to make defenders miss and he has excellent vision. There were multiple plays where he made the correct reads and waited for blocks to develop. He also showed some toughness with his running style, as he picked up several yards after contact.
  • Kyzir White is another guy who drew rave reviews in fall camp and now I can see why. White appears to be the most physical safety in the bunch, as he introduced himself to Mountaineer fans on a huge hit on Missouri QB Drew Lock in the first quarter. It's fitting that White wears No.8 because his phisicality resembled that of Karl Joseph at times. White defintely left an impression after the first game.
  • I also thought Rushel Shell looks like a better back this year, he ran hard at all times and displayed better vision and he hit holes when they opened. Shell was imperative in the opening drive of the second half that set the tone for the rest of the game and gave the Mountaineers momentum.
  • No surprise here but Daikiel Shorts looked like the Mountaineers most consistent wide receiver. Shorts snagged 8 receptions for 131 yards (over half of the Mountaineers receiving yards on the day). He is proving to be Howard's favorite target as he runs crisp routes and makes tough catches in traffic. He may not be a home run hitter, but he could be looking at an all-Big 12 season if he keeps performing like he did today.
  • Yodny Cajuste could be seen on the sideline in tears as teammates consoled him after an apparent knee injury, there was no update on he severity of the injury but it initially doesn't look great for thre sophomore tackle. Colton McKivitz did a great job in replacing Cajuste and consistently got the better of Missouri top defensive linemen Chris Harris.
  • Jeremy Tyler was another player who stood out today, he showed a good ability to come down and make plays against the run and did well in coverage too.
  • Skyler Howard was noticeably better at feeling pressure in the pocket. He had emphasized this in the offseason and his pocket presence looked leaps and bounds better than it was last year. His ability to feel the pressure also helped the fact that Missouri was not able to produce any sacks today.
  • Another guy who looked good was freshman end Adam Shuler, he held his own against the against the run and recovered a fumble early. That could be a sign that the Mountaineers are starting to develop some depth behind the front three. Converesly, it was surprising to see that Reese Donahue didn't enter the game until the fourth quarter.


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