The West Virginia Mountaineers take on William and Mary on Saturday, Aug. 31st. This game will be sure to answer a lot of questions that WVU fans have for their team after a disappointing 7-6 record last year.
Questions like, who is the starting quarterback?
Who is going to catch the football?
Where is Tavon Austin?
WVU lost their starting quarterback (Geno Smith), number one receiver (Stedman Bailey) and most explosive playmaker (Tavon Austin) to the NFL. Over the years WVU has not had a problem scoring the football but recently it’s been the defense that has let down the team. Last year it was obvious that simply trying to outscore their opponents will not work especially in Big XII conference play.
For William and Mary last season was substandard to say the least. Last year was William and Mary’s worst record in over 32 years. Expect William and Mary to bounce back this season with experience at QB and a new offensive coordinator. This is not the first time these two have met: WVU leads the series 15-1. The last time these two played WVU won 49-34 on Oct. 7, 1972. Don’t expect this year’s game to be as close. Since 2008 this will be the third Colonial Athletic Association opponent WVU has played and WVU is 2-0, outscoring Villanova and James Madison University 90-33.
Keys for WVU
Execute in all three phases. While many can view this game as a warm-up I can assure that the coaching staff doesn’t see it that way. In a game that WVU should win, it’s important for the players to be assignment sound and know their responsibilities. Looking past your opponent is never advisable but the players and the coaches know that the following week is a tough matchup against Oklahoma in Norman.
Dana Holgorsen’s track record with quarterbacks is pretty astounding. Whoever is taking snaps under center this year will be productive. Geno Smith threw for 4,385 yards, 31 touchdowns and 337.3 yards per game in his first full season under Holgorsen’s offense. So far a starter has not been named and it is a three-quarterback race between Paul Millard, Ford Childress and Clint Trickett.
Last year’s defense was the worst in the nation. That being said there is now depth and returning starters that should improve a defense that could not get off the field. Karl Joseph and Isaiah Bruce were bright spots for the defense last season. Both Joseph and Bruce were freshmen and finished one and two in tackles. Look for these two to set the tone early and lead this defense to become more of a strength than a liability.
Mistakes in the kicking game against Oklahoma State cost the Mountaineers 17 points. WVU’s special teams coach Joe DeForest, is well aware of this fact. Coach DeForest has been working with this year’s punters making sure the hang time is there so his team can make tackles. Charles Sims, a University of Houston transfer, is in the mix for punt and kickoff returns. He has big play potential and was a productive running back for UH.
Keys for William and Mary
William and Mary is returning seven all-conference players and a new offensive coordinator Kevin Rogers. Rogers has been a QB coach/ offensive coordinator at various colleges such as Syracuse, Notre Dame and Virginia Tech. He also has NFL coaching experience with the Minnesota Vikings. William and Mary will have to rely on Rogers’ experience coaching against WVU during his college coaching career.
Junior quarterback Raphael Ortiz will have to have a monster game. Ortiz started five games last year and showed promise of becoming a great player until he was sidelined due to injury. In his five starts he threw for 942 yards, five touchdowns and added four rushing touchdowns.
William and Mary’s defense must keep the game close in the first quarter. WVU’s “Air Raid” offense is designed for big plays. Big plays result in touchdowns and last year WVU outscored all their opponents 110-93 in the first quarter. This is a defense that can play with FBS schools. Last year in their season opener verse Maryland, William and Mary brought their defense into College Park and held Maryland scoreless for the first three quarters. They forced four turnovers and only allowed three third down conversions. William and Mary lost 7-6 but proved that they have the talent to compete in a hostile environment.
WVU wins 42-17