The BlueGoldNews.com staff selects the players of the game from the West Virginia - Western Michigan football game.
Patrick White's showcase of the run and pass and Ridwan Malik's overall prowess earn Player of the Game honors for Western Michigan.
White completed 10 of 18 passes for 192 yards and two touchdowns – the scores on WVU's first two possessions – as the No. 6 Mountaineers overwhelmed MAC favorite Western Michigan 62-24. The aerial barrage was surprising considering West Virginia led the nation in average yards per carry last season. But when WMU decided to press the line of scrimmage, Mountaineer head coach Rich Rodriguez decided to press new offensive buttons.
White, now a junior with a superior understanding of the spread offense, came out utilizing his left arm more than his right hand man in superback Steve Slaton. Western Michigan, choosing to play close to the line of scrimmage and eliminate the running game, was caught in a newly-found catch-22. Suddenly, taking away the running game wasn't enough.
Receiver Dorrell Jalloh hauled in a 19-yard pass from White on a slant pattern for a score and Slaton broke through a layer of line-hugging defenders for a 50-yard catch-and-run to make it 14-6. Then, just when the experienced Bronco secondary seemed to be settling, West Virginia didn't. White unleashed his speed from the backfield, faking a belly dive to Slaton that badly fooled a defense that ranked seventh against the run last season. Breaking around the left end, White hit his extra gear when he hit the second d level. The quarterback broke three tackles on a 38-yard run before directing his final block to plunge into the end zone for a 21-6 lead.
"That was what their coaches taught them to play," White said. "But we have playmakers on the field. If they are going to match up with us, that's brave."
But perhaps not smart. Malik, conversely, was slowing offensive progress, not creating new and exciting ways to reinvent the game. The spur safety, often overshadowed by All-Big East bandit Eric Wicks, was continually in and around plays versus the Broncos. He ranked just seventh in tackles for the game, with four. But his fit up on the pass and run games and his execution of assignments was among the finest on the defense. Factor in that two of his four tackles were for loss, and the South Carolina native earns the top defensive spot.
The West Virginia secondary. It was on the receiving end, literally, of two Bronco turnovers. Cornerback Antonio Lewis intercepted a pass while fellow CB Larry Williams recovered a fumble. It also helped, via the bandit and safety spots, to stuff the run game and hold WMU to 32 yards on 32 runs. It certainly wasn't brilliant in pass defense, with coordinator Jeff Casteel noting that "we were all or nothing. It was a three and out or an eight or nine play drive." But, with three sacks and multiple rushes and hurries from its new look, it showed marked improvement within a defense that did not gain a sack until the fifth outing last season. For game one, it gets a nod for a job reasonably done.
Mortty Ivy. The linebacker, bumped into the starting trio when J.T. Thomas was indefinitely suspended, was all over the field. He finished with a team-best 10 tackles, including one sack and another half tackle for loss. Ivy is a known commodity within the odd stack set, and the weak side ‘backer executed well within the sets and flashes enough speed and strength to man up with every unit the Mountaineers will face this season.
Pat Lazear. The frosh sensation didn't make a major impact at linebacker. But he made several crashing the Western Michigan blocking schemes in the return game. Lined up beside place kicker Pat McAfee, Lazear blew threw several blocks. He was in on a lone assisted tackle, but the flashes of toughness, power and physical play were evident on special teams. The newcomer will be a good one, and he will be a good one soon, even with West Virginia's linebackers among the deepest areas on the squad.
Sidney Glover. Perhaps a surprise to some fans and pundits, Glover has come on within the last two weeks. He said he had adjusted to the speed of the game and become more comfortable with both its pace and West Virginia's schemes and setups. Glover, like Ivy, was around many of the plays. That's a product of his spur slot as much as anything. His speed and timing off the edge on his sack and his ability to breakdown and make plays in the open field – all four of his tackles were solo – make him a prime candidate to create additional depth over the final 11 games.