PoG: WVU - Coastal Carolina

It was a shaky start for the Mountaineers, but a big play from one of the team's cornerback helped ensure momentum never totally shifted to the plucky visitors from Coastal Carolina on Saturday afternoon.

PLAYER OF THE GAME:

  • Brandon Hogan.

    WVU head coach Bill Stewart said after his team's win that his friend and Chanticleers counterpart David Bennett had confessed in a postgame handshake that Hogan made the play that deflated his team's spirits for good.

    It was an athletic interception in the moments before halftime. Hogan was in perfect position throughout. He was with the receiver he was covering stride-for-stride on the play and had perfect inside position on the ball thrown from Zach MacDowall.

    Hogan laid out with full extension for the football and corralled it in the end zone for a touchback.

    It was a big play, but it was made even more significant by what had come just before. With his team up only 10-0 in the waning moments of the second quarter, Mountaineers quarterback Geno Smith had fired a pass into the waiting arms of CCU cornerback Dominique Davenport.

    Davenport's 37-yard return gave his team the ball at the WVU 21-yard line, and the players and coaches on the Coastal Carolina sideline were jumping up and down wildly, thinking they might just be able to give the hosts a fight.

    But Hogan put those thoughts to rest with his interception on the very next play. The score stayed 10-0 at the half, WVU forced and recovered a fumble on the opening kickoff of the third quarter, and any thoughts of an upset were put to rest.

    The senior ended the game with five total tackles (two solo, three assisted) and a pass broken-up to go with his pick.

    GAME BALLS:

  • Tavon Austin.

    It seemed like the best play in the WVU arsenal was anything that allowed Austin to catch the ball in the middle of the field. Time and time again, he found a soft spot in the middle of the defense, just about five yards past the line of scrimmage.



    Tavon Austin

    On a few occasions, he had room to run immediately. On those where there was not open turf in front of him, Austin created it with a simple stop-and-start move, dusting many CCU defenders with relative ease.

    Those plays showcased Austin's incredible acceleration. One might be able to count the college players that have the ability to start that quickly on one hand. In Austin and running back Noel Devine, the Mountaineers have two of them.

    Sure, Austin did fumble away the ball around the Chanticleers' 2-yard line, and a bad bounce gave the visitors a touchback. But the sophomore was West Virginia's most potent playmaking threat all day otherwise.

    He had 90 yards on five catches and added 11 yards rushing on two carries.

  • Solid special teams.

    For once, there was nary a complaint to be heard about kickoff coverage.

    It helped that Corey Smith showed a strong enough leg to at least get the football to the goal line on two of his kickoffs. But he placed the ball well also, allowing his coverage team to yield only 15.7 yards per return.

    Gregg Pugnetti was not incredibly consistent punting, as two of his six attempts were low line drives that did not travel especially far.

    But he showed fans that when he gets his foot behind the ball well, he is more than capable of doing the job. A friendly roll gave the fifth-year senior a 71-yard punt in the first half, which tied for the 11th longest effort in program history.

    And Tyler Bitancurt, given the chance to focus solely on field goals and PATs this season, did his job as well. He hit a short field goal and was perfect on his four extra point attempts.

    All in all, it was a good day for a part of the WVU team that had been maligned for various reasons in recent seasons.

  • Third-down defense.

    We've heard the hype about defensive changes, aggressive blitz packages and new ideas for third downs in the past. This year, early returns would indicate that it was all real.

    The Mountaineers found ways to get off the field, holding Coastal Carolina to only 2-of-14 on third-down conversion opportunities.

    In longer yardage situations, that success came largely as the result of the '40' package the team installed this fall, utilizing speed at almost every position on the field.

    It paid off, even though WVU did not tally a sack. Time and time again, Chanticleers QB Zach MacDowall was under duress. Junior college transfer Bruce Irvin was disruptive on one end of the front four, and Will Clarke also did his part to wreak havoc on the other.

    Only time will tell if the scheme will be similarly effective against higher-level opposition. But the Mountaineers showed an ability to get their defense off the field when given the opportunity, which has to be encouraging for coordinator Jeff Casteel.


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