PoG: WVU - Liberty

The Blue & Gold News staff presents its choices for WVU's offensive and defensive players of the game from the season-opening 33-20 victory over Liberty.

It's impressive enough that Tyler Bitancurt went 4-of-4 kicking field goals on Saturday afternoon at Milan Puskar Stadium.

That performance becomes only more significant when one considers that it occurred in the redshirt freshman's first game as a college football player.

Add in the fact Bitancurt was in a tough fight for his starting job when fall camp began barely a month ago, and the fact that his kicks Saturday came with the heavily-favored Mountaineers locked in a closer-than-expected battle, and it's easy to see why the Springfield, Va., native was our pick for player of the game.

Bitancurt showed the strong leg that West Virginia head coach and special teams coordinator Bill Stewart said the kicker had, while displaying far better accuracy and consistency than he did early in fall camp by converting kicks of 38, 35, 45 and 36 yards.

A team that has question marks at a few positions needs to be able to rely on solid special teams play, especially in field goal kicking.

Possessions in which Jarrett Brown and the offense can't reach the end zone need to end with a boot between the uprights as often as possible for WVU to have a chance to reach its goals for the season.

Bitancurt showed in the season-opener why Stewart saw fit to go with him as the field goal kicker. In the process, he may have answered one of the bigger questions surrounding this year's Mountaineer squad.



Julian Miller

While many have seen fit to praise the play of Chris Neild and Scooter Berry, it was the third man in the front three of the WVU defense that earned our nod for defensive player of the game.

Julian Miller had seven total tackles against the flames, tying for the team high with J.T. Thomas.

Of those seven tackles, three were solo efforts and four were assisted. He accounted for 1.5 sacks in the process (the half-sack also was shared with Thomas) and had three tackles for loss -- both of which were game-highs.

While Neild and Berry may grab more headlines for their play, the third-year sophomore from Columbus, Ohio did his part to help contain Liberty's potent one-two punch of quarterback Tommy Beecher and receiver Mike Brown.

GAME BALLS:

  • Jarrett Brown

    The quarterback had an impressive outing in his first outing of his fifth-year senior season.

    Not only was he statistically impressive (completing 19-of-26 passes for 243 yards while adding 69 yards and a touchdown rushing), he managed the game like the veteran that he is.

    His 22-yard touchdown run came on a play in which he recognized a flaw in Liberty's defense and audibled to a draw play. The signal-caller executed a convincing pump fake, tucked the ball and found a seam up the middle before diving into the end zone for the score.

    That Brown had enough faith in his abilities to audible to a designed run on third-and-13 speaks volumes to his confidence this season.

    Countless times, he felt pressure and avoided a rush on pass plays -- but he kept enough composure to keep his eyes downfield and work through his progression of receivers.

    That led to several long, vertical pass plays. Five separate WVU receivers each had at least one catch of 16 yards or longer. Two had grabs of more than 30 yards.

    If Brown can continue to work the field vertically this season, it will make things much easier on skilled Mountaineer running back Noel Devine and the rest of the backfield.

  • J.T. Thomas

    Thomas just missed out on being named our defensive player of the game. He tied the aforementioned Miller with a team-high seven tackles (four solo, three assisted).

    He combined with miller on a sack of Beecher and had 2.5 tackles for loss.

    But the box score can't account for big hits, and Thomas brought an abundance of those today.

    "I told him I was calling him 'Kill Shot' today," said fellow linebacker Reed Williams of Thomas. "I was jealous. I didn't get any of those. But J.T. played a whale of a game. He was flying around. He can knock anybody out at any given moment."

    While he also was hit with a personal foul penalty for a blow to the head of Beecher, his solid play otherwise more than made up for the 15-yard flag (which came late in the game on a questionable call).


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