That is, of course, incorrect. The Mountaineers routinely picked up four and five yard chunks on the ground, and maintained that aspect of the game just effectively enough to force Youngstown State to get out of its two deep shell and, on occasion, play man-to-man against the receivers. That's where WVU saw a major edge on the film, and at least this time, the film didn't lie.
Shelton Gibson caught six passes for a career-high 171 yards, snapping the mark he set against Iowa State last year with 148 on the same number of receptions. The junior routinely ran past an overmatched YSU secondary, and was literally pulling away from the corners on vertical routes. Gibson had two 50-plus yard scoring grabs, one a 54-yarder and the other from 57, his longest of the year. quite aptly, it was also the longest pass completion for Skyler Howard, who used his match-up edge on the outside to complete 20-of-33 passes for a whopping 389 yards and five touchdowns against one interception.
It was the 15th-best single game performance in school history, and the five scores boost Howard to sole possession of eighth place on the all-time WVU list with 39 career TD passes (Geno Smith leads with 98.) Howard not only worked Youngstown State and coordinator Carl Pelini - brother of YSU head coach Bo - over with the long ball to Gibson and, for the first score, Ka'Raun White, but also used safety blanket Daikiel Shorts, who caught six passes for 93 yards and a touchdown. The mix was so good, in fact, that Howard threw scoring passes to four different players. Gibson matched his career high with two, while Shorts, White and running back Kennedy McKoy all had one touchdown.
For McKoy, it was the first score of his college career. For White, it was 53-yarder to open the scoring was the first of his career. It also signaled what would happen throughout the game, even West Virginia's line struggled throughout the first half and the Mountaineers at times sputtered along. Howard's lone interception came on the first series, and seemed to set a tone that wasn't snapped until the second half, when the Mountaineers opened the third quarter with a nine-play, 86-yard drive that culminated in Shorts' 11-yard touchdown reception. That gave WVU a 21-14 lead, and from there the game began to open up a bit as Mike Molina added a confidence-restoring 32-yard field goal after shanking a 30-yarder just before the half and Gibson struck again, this time with his 57-yard catch and run.
That was proven to be the deciding blow, Youngstown State then starting to wilt down the stretch as West Virginia pulled away for a 38-21 win, the Mountaineers' seventh in their last eight games dating to last season. White finished with five grabs for 88 yards, and Gary Jennings and Rushel Shell also had one reception, helping Howard to a 203.6 passer rating. Howard hit on 20 of 30 targeted receivers, a solid 66.6 percentage, and wasn't sacked for a second straight game as the line made solid halftime adjustments and dominated the latter quarters.
Take a listen above and below as White and Shorts detail their performances, as well as the team as a whole. Also keep an ear out for wideouts coach Tyon Carrier, who can be heard telling Shorts that his touchdown catch would have been much easier - and much clearer to officials - if the senior would have put his correct foot down initially. It was all in good fun, and a nice showcase that West Virginia not only understands it made mistakes, but also that it got the 'W' and has what is a needed open week to rectify mistakes and hone in on execution before a key test against BYU on Sept. 24 in Landover, Md.