For weeks Mountaineer fans and coaches alike approached the 2016 season with a cautiously optimistic outlook of the West Virginia offensive line. The group did not disappoint on Saturday as they dominated a highly touted Missouri defensive line. The group also showed off it's depth that line coach Ron Crook had raved about earlier in the camp. Going into the game the group's sixth man Tony Matteo had the task of replacing a suspended Adam Pankey and in the first quarter Yodny Cajuste went down with an apparent knee injury so redshirt freshman Colton McKivitz was called on to replace Cajuste for the remainder of the game. Crook spoke about the performance of McKivitz and the overall depth his unit displayed.
"I think (Colton) did very well considering the opponent he was going against," Crook said. "He got his feet wet and the biggest thing was that he didn't lose his mind. He didn't stop thinking and he didn't lose focus. He stayed with what he was coached and what he believed in and that will give you a chance against a really good opponent."
McKivitz certainly held his own against a formidable opponent and was a big part of the offense's success. Both run blocking and pass blocking were consistent on the afternoon as the line allowed zero sacks and there were plenty of holes for both Rushel Shell and Justin Crawford to run through all day. The season is still young and there is still a lot of football to be played, but if this group can consistently replicate Saturday's performance they have the potential to be the best line to play at WVU since Rick Trickett dawned the sideline.
"We played a really good opponent today," Crook said. "They have really good personnel. They played hard, they came after us and they had a good pass rush. I'm really happy with the way we came out and were able to execute. I'm happy with the mentality we played with our guys played hard and they played physical and put us in a position that gave us a chance to win."
Before Saturday the aforementioned Colton McKivitz's last game was on a high school field in front of a few hundred fans. This weekend got his first taste of Division 1 football on Saturday as he was tasked with blocking Charles Harris, who is Missouri's best defender, for the better part of the afternoon.McKivitz talked about the challenges of facing a talented player like Harris right off the bat.
"(Harris) was a really good player," McKivitz said. "He was really fast, he had a good edge rush and he had a mean spin move. But what I can take from that is to work on my game. He's a really good player. We ran away from him a little bit and then towards the end we started going at him."
McKivitz's readiness to compete at such a high level after just one year on campus is a testament to the job that the coaching staff and strength staff have done both evaluating and developing players. McKivitz has put on over 50 pounds of muscle and he talked about his development over his redshirt year. McKivitz will now have to prepare to play the entire year as it was announced that Cajuste suffered a season ending ACL tear.
"(I have grown) a lot," McKivitz said. "After the bowl game last year I was like 'this is going to be my year and I'm going to try to improve my game and help the team win.' I think the weight room and coach Mike (Joseph) really got me right for the season and coach Crook and coach Wickline teaching me all of those techniques have really helped my game."