Preview: Coastal Carolina

Questions abound as West Virginia opens its season against Coastal Carolina in a 3:30 p.m. kickoff. Game Scorecard
Sat 9/4/10 3:30 PM

Morgantown, WV

Mountaineer Field
Record: 0-0
Last Game
Florida State L 21-33
TV: Big East
Radio: MSN
Record: 0-0
Last Game
Chas South L 23-30
Rosters/ Bios
Press Release
Season Stats
2010 Schedule

Series: 0-0
First Meeting: 2010
Last Meeting: NA
Press Release
Season Stats
2010 Schedule

Click for Morgantown, West Virginia Forecast


WVU – OL Nick Kindler (Out); DL Donovan Pearson, (Out) Toe Surgery; Shawne Alston (Knee) Probable; LB Pat Lazear (Knee) Questionable; Sidney Glover (Hamstring) Questionable; Bradley Starks (Groin) Questionable; Trippe Hale (Hamstring) Questionable; Chris Snook (Neck) Questionable

Coastal Carolina – None Reported.


WVU Offense vs. Coastal Carolina defense

As many questions as West Virginia's spread has – the quarterback position, offensive line play, if it can again avoid sacks and finish in short yardage situation – Coastal Carolina seems able to match. The Chanticleers were hurt by their lack of slowing the run, which negated their solid pass defense, and a negative turnover margin in all lessened the effectiveness of a very good pass rushing team. CCU finish first in the Big South in sacks and 33rd in the FCS overall. Coastal allowed 21 or fewer points in its first five games and six of the first eight overall. But as the schedule toughened, the multiple-look unit was ripped for 58, 49, 37 and 30 points over its final six contests. Coastal plays a 4-3 look most of the time that can morph into a 4-4 and nickel sets easily as it stands up as many as eight players on a snap, dropping the end and rushing from many other ‘hybrid' positions like spur, bandit, wolf, spark and rooster. The spur and bandit are similar to what WVU runs, while the rooster is like Virginia Tech's rover position. Wolf is a true linebacker slot, while spark is a secondary-style player. The make-up allows head coach David Bennett to bring pressure from all over the field and confuse young quarterbacks with various lineups. West Virginia will also be tested schematically by stunts and loops and various gaps taken by the Chanticleers. The unproven Mountaineer line can get away with being purely better than its counterparts in this game, and it should be bale to use this to practice communication and assignment football.

Desmond Stewart mans the wolf position, one freed up to make a lot of stops. The 5-11, 230-pound junior did that last year, making a team-high 60 tackles. His backup, E.J. Brown, was second on the squad with 58 total tackles, and the senior added three sacks and two picks. The duo is among the most effective one-two punches in the FCS division, and both benefit from the scheme, which has other players eating up blockers in front of the wolf slot, which is allowed to roam and make plays. Rooster Dominique Davenport registered 40 solo tackles and three interceptions in the defensive backfield. At 5-11, 210 pounds, Davenport has good speed and coverage ability, and can take away much of the middle routes West Virginia likes to run. The trio of playmakers are surrounded by a lot of experience along with skill at the corner slots. Right corner Tavorris Jolly is in his second season starting as a senior, and left corner Josh Norman, a junior, had a team-best eight interceptions last year. There's little question Coastal has a solid secondary. But it won't matter if it can't slow Noel Devine. Only sophomore end Quinton Davis has seen much playing time along the line, and his seven tackles for loss are by far the best of any of the four starters. Two other starters are sophomores that will make their first career starts, and nose tackle Dexter Holman is a bit undersized. Bandit Chris Walls, 43 tackles, 2.5 sacks, helps the group in run support, but this is a very average front.

By The Numbers
West Virginia Coastal Carolina
Scoring Offense 26.2 ppg Scoring Defense 25.5 ppg
Rushing Offense 186.4 ypg Rushing Defense 176.9 ypg
Passing Offense 191.1 ypg Passing Defense 160.5 ypg

Advantage: West Virginia

WVU Defense vs. Coastal Carolina Offense

This has been touted as the best on-paper, opening-day West Virginia defense in a decade, and perhaps since it ranked No. 1 in several categories during the 1996 season. But the Mountaineers are lacking experience at the spur slot, and some of its corner talent is solid but not spectacular. The line and linebackers appear to have enough depth and skill to stay with or better most foes, and those areas should not be a concern in the opener. What WVU must be aware of is the trick play, and that normally bites the secondary more than any other defensive unit. Brandon Hogan and Keith Tandy must remain disciplined, and the linebackers can't get downhill too quickly for fear of overrunning with the flow only to have Coastal flip it with misdirection. The Chanticleers will be hard pressed to drive 80 yards or so in 10 plays, executing against faster, stronger players throughout. But if they can pop a surprise snap or two and gain a couple scores while using a shorter field, the game could be close than most anticipate.

Bennett runs a spread offense much like West Virginia's, so CCU doesn't get much of an edge there. It could, rather, actually struggle picking up assignments because of the Mountaineers' seldom-seen 3-3-5 set. Despite watching it on film for a month, quarterback Zach McDowell hasn't seen much of the odd stack in his career. The Wake Forest transfer threw for 16 touchdowns against just six interceptions in 2008, then regressed last season in a split-signalcaller role as he tossed nine TDs and 11 interceptions. He has seemed more at ease as the starter during Coastal's fall camp, and does still own the school record (six years of play for the program) for completion percentage (58.4) and pass efficiency (132.9). Co-starting quarterback-turned-tight-end Jamie Childers could prove a match-up issue across the middle for WVU, which has never covered that area well in the odd stack. It was better last season with Reed Williams dropping deep into coverage from his linebacker spot, but it might not find a player with similar capabilities this season. Childers' size (6-5, 225 lbs.) makes him a mobile target, and his speed gives him good yards-after-catch ability. The three starting wideouts are all seniors, and the team was extremely balanced last season. It averaged just less than 19 points per game while racking up 1,968 yards passing and 1,683 rush yards per contest. CCU needs to finish drives more effectively, and limit foes on the ground to get additional possessions.

Tailback Eric O'Neal returns after missing the final five games last season after tearing a knee ligament. The surgery went well, and the senior appears to be primed for a breakout final year after rushing for 1,107 yards over his first three seasons to rank 6th in school history. At 5-10, 200 lbs., Neal is a mix between a jitterbug player and one with some power. He can mix and match as needed, but doesn't have the breakout speed of many BCS-level backs. Neal's line, however, is a mishmash of experience and youth with right side flashing two juniors and a sophomore and redshirt freshman at center and left tackle, respectively. Both are returning starters, though, and have a season of experience. Overall, the front five have decent size, but are a bit on the thinner side of most West Virginia will see. Scooter Berry and Chris Neild should be able to handle this group, and Bruce Irvin could cause major trouble for Coastal Carolina on the outside.

By The Numbers
West Virginia Coastal Carolina
Scoring Defense 21.7 ppg Scoring Offense 18.6 ppg
Rushing Defense 126.7 ypg Rushing Offense 153 ypg
Passing Defense 209.8 ypg Passing Offense 178.9 ypg

Advantage: West Virginia

WVU Special Teams vs. Coastal Carolina Special Teams

West Virginia has explosive return players in Noel Devine, Jock Sanders and Tavon Austin. It has more speed than Coastal in the coverage game, and should be able to narrow gaps sometimes exploited by more athletic foes last season. Tyler Bitancurt solidifies the place kicking, and the snapping and holds have been adequate through camp. The major question is at punter. Fourth-year player Greg Pugnetti will get the initial chances, with Corey Smith providing depth and handling kickoffs. Both must be more consistent in the punting game – the one area where field position could swing to the Chanticleers. Coastal has very good experience at the kicking slots and some talent in the return game, but nothing WVU should not handle by blowing up blocking schemes and using better ability.

By The Numbers
West Virginia Coastal Carolina
Net Punting 38.4 yards Net Punting 32.3 yards per punt
KO Returns 22 yards per return KO Returns 19.7 yards per return
Punt Returns 9.6 yards per return Punt Returns 11 yards per return

Advantage: West Virginia


On Offense: Geno Smith.

On Defense: Terrence Garvin.


West Virginia has more ability, more explosiveness and more depth across the line-ups. Even with questions along the offensive line and at quarterback, and sans great players at some defensive slots, the Mountaineers shouldn't have any trouble with this one. Look for bland, base play calling and keeping all the tricks and wrinkles from game tapes. Noel Devine runs well, WVU muscles up Coastal Carolina and the defense plays physically sound football. The no-win situation results in one.

WVU - 30 Coastal Carolina - 13

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