The Mountaineers' first team held the Tigers to just three points, and overall WVU got off the field on 14 of 24 third downs. But Missouri often had open wideouts that quarterback Drew Lock missed, and that was with the sophomore throwing for 282 yards, albeit over 53 attempts. UM even had a pair of receivers go over the century mark. J'Mon Moore caught eight passes for 104 yards, and Chris Black, the Alabama transfer, hauled in six catches for 102 yards and Missouri's lone touchdown in WVU's 26-11 win.
"This first game showed what we got and no we are trying to get better every week," said safety Jeremy Tyler, who took the starting slot vacated by Dravon Askew-Henry's ACL tear. "Just keep getting better every week and prove that we still have talent after last year and nothing is lacking. We are still here. It's reading the keys and doing what we have to do and coming down and making the tackle. The young guys, we weren't really worried about them. It's just what assignments they have to do and what gaps they have."
The Mountaineers' goal was not to allow any more than 21 points to the SEC foe, and that was essentially secured midway through the fourth quarter. Missouri's only TD came against the second team, but it did move the ball effectively between the 20s, and started to pick on West Virginia's corners in the middle portions of the contest. It's an obvious work in progress for coordinator Tony Gibson, entering his third season in the position.
"The goal this week was not to give up three touchdowns overall," said corner Maurice Fleming, a graduate transfer from Iowa. "The personnel is a lot different (this year) but it's a quick adjustment. You just go out there and play defense. Coach Gibby, there's no speech, it's just go out and play defense. We go off Gibson's play calls. We probably got loose here or there, but we didn't want to let them score."
Now there are far more significant challenges, and that's the focus moving forward after the a solid but not spectacular game. Missouri's offensive timing was poor, and the relationship between Lock and hiss receivers has yet to truly develop. When the Tigers played fast, they threw themselves off a much as any effect it had on West Virginia.
"We read the formation and where we were supposed to be and we lined up from there," Tyler said. "A couple plays we really couldn't get all our communication together because they were going fast but overall our communication was good. We were on top of it for the most part."
BYU had no such issues in its win over Arizona, as the Cougars - who loom in two weeks in the neutral site game outside Washington, D.C. - moved the ball effectively behind Taysome Hill's 21-of-29 performance for 202 yards. Hill looked comfortable in the pocket, and showcased confidence in throwing downfield while taking the easier options as well.
It's a reason the next two weeks are imperative for West Virginia's defense. It likely has nearly enough talent to win on talent alone against Youngstown State. But it must work on itself over the ensuing fortnight if it wants to limit a higher-octane passing attack led by a tall, lanky receiver in Moroni Laulu-Pututau (6-4, 216 lbs.) and coordinator Ty Detmer.
"I kinda feel lik a freshman again," said corner Antonio Crawford. "(Communication) was one of my main focuses coming in to camp, just trying to get on the same page as the other starting safeties and corners. We are all new in playing together. But we all bought in and we played together, played fast. We didn't get complacent. We adjusted well and came together. We fed off each other."