Shorts finished with a game-high eight catches for 131 yards, amassing more than half the total yardage thrown for by quarterback Skyler Howard. Shorts exposed Missouri's midrange passing defense, as the Tigers often kept two safeties over the top for help in containing the deep pass. That left intermediate routes for Shorts, and the senior took advantage as an ultra dependable target.
"It's only game one," Shorts said afterward in trying to downplay his accomplishments a bit. "We have to take it one week at a time. We have a pretty good connection, so hopefully we can keep the ball rolling. (Howard) is our leader. He knows our offense better than anyone. I had a feeling there would be some opportunities over the middle, which there were. We took advantage of it."
Howard, meanwhile, overcame the rib injury and completed 23 of 35 passes for 253 yards, but was held off the scoreboard. That didn't matter much, as the Mountaineer defense limited Missouri to just three points over the first 58 minutes of play in as effective a performance against a Power Five foe as there has been in the Dana Holgorsen era.
Shorts, above, discusses his performance, and a passing attack that racked up more than 250 yards while also being balanced by a running game that chewed up both yardage (241 yards) and clock. Rushel Shell was the primary catalyst, tallying 90 yards on 16 rushes, and continually finishing runs and punishing the Tiger defense. Shell showcased his physicality, vision and tenacity, and also his balance and shiftiness on a 23-yard scoring run that was one of just two Mountaineer touchdowns of the day. The other belonged to fellow back Justin Crawford, who went over the 100-yard mark in his first major collegiate game on just 21 carries, an average of 4.8 yards per carry.
Crawford and Shell both reaped the benefits from a line that controlled a highly-touted Missouri front four, and was able to afford Shell and Crawford holes and Howard time to throw. The Tigers registered no sacks, and rarely put WVU behind the sticks. Instead, the Mountaineers had most of their playbook available all game, and that increased the comfort of Howard, and newcomers asked to contribute like Crawford. Take a listen as Shell, below, discusses what he saw from the Tigers, and his approach to the game and running downhill and with a purpose.
"We were a little slow at times, but then it picked up," Shell said. "When we get a light box, we are going to run the ball. Being able to break a long run or being in the game longer than I was is (something I'm working on). I want to be a four quarter type of guy. You get your opportunity you better make it happen, because you know the next man up will. It puts fire under both of us. We feed off of each other and we compete. If you don't make a play the next guy will."
Shell also details his physical play, and how he likes to finish runs. He also details Shorts' performance, and how the speed and elusiveness of West Virginia's receivers opens plays in the run game in a symbiotic relationship.null