Game Preview: WVU vs. Delaware State

Keenan Cummings, Managing Editor
WV Sports
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DISCUSS: Visit the Blue Lot to discuss West Virginia all year long

Series: First meeting

Last meeting: First meeting

Television: 12 p.m. AT&T Sports Network, Rob King (play-by-play), Marc Bulger (analyst), Meg Bulger (sideline)

West Virginia has never lost to an FCS program and will look to keep that mark intact when Delaware State travels to Morgantown for the final non-conference game of the season Saturday.

The Mountaineers are coming off a highly impressive diapatching of East Carolina, where the offense scored touchdowns on seven of its first eight drives to take a 49-3 lead into the break and would go on to win the ball game 56-20. In that first half, West Virginia rolled up almost 500 yards of total offense as well as scoring four of its seven touchdowns in under a minute.

Head coach Dana Holgorsen is now into his seventh season atop the Mountaineers football program and has amassed a career record of 47-32, including winning all six meetings against FCS teams. Overall, the football program is 17-0 all-time against opponents from that level.

Despite sky high expectations, redshirt junior quarterback Will Grier has lived up to them and some, throwing for five touchdowns against East Carolina after setting a passing yardage record in a debut by a Mountaineers quarterback in the season opener against Virginia Tech. Grier has been named Big 12 Conference Newcomer in consecutive weeks and has tossed for 723 yards and 8 touchdowns while completing 64-percent of his passes in what amounts to just over six quarters of football.

Grier is equipped with a collection of talented pass catchers with juniors David Sills (18, 247 yards, 5 touchdowns), Gary Jennings (17, 235 yards, 1 touchdown), redshirt senior Ka’Raun White (8, 123 yards and 1 touchdown) and sophomore Marcus Simms, one catch for a 52-yard score, leading the way.

The West Virginia offense has shown balance through the first two games, averaging 605 yards of total offense with 387 of that coming through the air and 218 on the ground. Senior running back Justin Crawford has consecutive 100-yard games to open the season for the Mountaineers and is averaging eight yards per carry through the first two games. There is depth behind him as well.

The West Virginia defense is replacing a total of eight starters from a year ago, but is on a similar pace to how it started 2016. Overall the unit is allowing 25 points per contest, with 469 yards, and a 31-percent conversion rate (10-32) on third downs. The unit did force its first two turnovers of the year a week ago.

Delaware State is led by third year head coach Kenny Carter, who is 1-23 during his time atop the program. The Hornets have lost 13-consecutive games and have started the season 0-2. The former Floroda running back also has stints at Louisville and Youngstown State as an assistant.

The Hornets are 1-7 all-time against FBS oponents with the victory coming over Akron during the 1987 campaign and the Mountaineers will be one of two trips to power five schools this season with another set to Florida State in November.

The Hornets will roll out a true freshman quarterback in Jack McDaniels, the sixth year in a row that the program has had a new opening day starter at the position. The Virginia high school product displayed improvement from week one to week two, but the offense is still developing.

Through two games, Delaware State has scored only 18 points and has yet to throw for a touchdown, although McDaniels has accounted for a score on the ground.

Given the fact the Delaware State has a freshman quarterback, naturally the playcalling has been conservative and the Hornets feature a trio of running backs that can make plays.

The primary playmaker offensively for Delaware State is junior Brycen Alleyne who is an incredibly shifty option that could lineup at various spots on the field to create mismatches. He also returns kicks and leads the team in all-purpose yards. While both Mike Waters and Nyfease West are the power backs though West is more than capable of hurting opposing defenses in the passing game.

The Hornets defense is of the 3-4 variety and is much deeper up front on the defensive line than it was a season ago, while also showing capable linebackers led by senior Malik Harris who leads the team with 18 tackles and a sack through the first two games. Delaware State is allowing 25 points per game and 435 total yards, with teams taking advantage of a young secondary.

Kickoff is set for noon and will be televised by AT&T Sports Network.


PREMIUM LINK: THE PRE-SNAP READ: DELAWARE STATE. BREAKING DOWN HOW THE TWO TEAMS MATCHUP IN ALL ASPECTS OF THE GAME ($)


West Virginia Depth Chart:

OFFENSE:

QB: 7 Will Grier, (r-Jr.), 11 Chris Chugunov, (r-So.)

RB: 25 Justin Crawford, (Sr.), 4 Kennedy McKoy, (So.) -or-, 32 Martell Pettaway, (So.) -or-, 14 Tevin Bush, (Fr.) -or-, 20 Alec Sinkfield, (Fr)

HB: 28 Elijah Wellman, (r-Sr.), 81 Trevon Wesco, (r-Jr.)

X WR: 13 David Sills, (Jr.), 8 Marcus Simms (So.)

Y/H WR: 12 Gary Jennings, (Jr.), 85 Ricky Rogers, (r-Jr.)

Z WR: 2 Ka'Raun White, (r-Sr.), 10 Reggie Roberson, (Fr.)

LT: 55 Yodny Cajuste, (r-Jr.), 72 Kelby Wickline, (r-So.)

LG: 62 Kyle Bosch, (r-Sr.), 76 Chase Behrndt, (r-Fr.)

C: 79 Matt Jones, (r-So.), 58 Ray Raulerson, (r-Jr.)

RG: 73 Josh Sills, (r-Fr.), 65 Isaiah Hardy (Jr.)

RT: 53 Colton McKivitz, (r-So.), 72 Kelby Wickline, (r-So.)

DEFENSE:

DE: 88 Adam Shuler, (r-So.), 92 Jon Lewis, (r-Sr.)

NT: 99 Xavier Pegues, (r-Sr.), 96 Jaleel Fields, (r-Jr.)

DE: 46 Reese Donahue, (So.), 93 Ezekiel Rose, (Jr.)

SAM LB: 5 Xavier Preston, (Sr.), 44 Hodari Christian, (r-Sr.)

MIKE LB: 3 Al-Rasheed Benton, (r-Sr.), 7 Brendan Ferns, (r-Fr.)

WILL LB: 10 Dylan Tonkery, (r-Fr.), 45 Adam Hensley, (So.)

SPUR: 8 Kyzir White, (Sr.), 18 Marvin Gross, (r-Sr.)

BS: 16 Toyous Avery, (r-Jr.), 1 Derrek Pitts, (Fr.)

FS: 6 Dravon Askew-Henry, (r-Jr.), 9 Jovanni Stewart, (So.)

LCB: 24 Hakeem Bailey, (r-So.), 19 Elijah Battle, (Sr.)

RCB: 4 Mike Daniels, (Sr.), 12 Corey Winfield, (r-Sr.)

SPECIAL TEAMS:

K: 48 Mike Molina, (r-Sr.), 43 Luke Hogan, (r-Fr.)

P: 15 Billy Kinney, (r-Jr.), 43 Luke Hogan, (r-Fr.)

LS: 52 Nick Meadows, (r-Sr.), 64 Rex Sunahara, (r-So.)

H: 15 Billy Kinney, (r-Jr.), 43 Luke Hogan, (r-Fr.)

KO: 30 Evan Staley, (r-Fr.), 43 Luke Hogan, (r-Fr.)

PR: 8 Marcus Simms (So.), 13 David Sills, (Jr.)

KOR: 8 Marcus Simms (So.) 12 Gary Jennings, (Jr.)

NOTES:

--This year marks the 126th year of West Virginia football with the Mountaineers currently sitting in 14th place all-time in wins in college football.

--WVU is 19-6 in non-conference games under head coach Dana Holgorsen including 15-1 at home.

--Since 2000, West Virginia is 108-13 when scoring more than 30 points and 56-4 when scoring more than 40 points in a game. West Virginia has won 12 straight games when scoring 30 points or more.

--The Mountaineers are 82-11 since 2002 when winning the turnover battle.

--West Virginia is 18-5 in September under head coach Dana Holgorsen and 14-2 at home.

--West Virginia is 17-0 all-time against FCS programs, including 6-0 under Holgorsen.

--In the Holgorsen era, WVU has produced 75 games with 300 or more yards, 57 games with 400 or more yards, 30 games with more than 500 yards and 16 with more than 600 yards.

--The 2017 roster consists of 121 players from 20 different states.

--Coaching staff assignments: AHC/DC/LB Tony Gibson (field), OC/QB Jake Spavital (field), CB Doug Belk (press box), WR Tyron Carrier (field), S Matt Caponi (field), RB Tony Dews (field), LB/ST Mark Scott (press box), DL Bruce Tall (press box), OL Joe Wickline (field)

--There are 27 Mountaineers who have seen their first WVU action during the 2017 season: Hakeem Bailey (CB), Chase Behrndt (OL), Druw Bowen (WR), Tevin Bush (RB), Elijah Drummond (FB), Brendan Ferns (LB), Will Grier (QB), Isaiah Hardy (OL), Jalen Harvey (DL), Osman Kamara (S), Jake Long (CB), Sean Mahone (CB), Dominique Maiden (WR), Lamonte McDougle (DL), Quondarius Qualls (LB), Xavier Pegues (DL) Derrek Pitts Jr. (S), Jeffery Pooler (DL), Reggie Roberson Jr (WR), Kenny Robinson (S), Ezekiel Rose (DL), Josh Sills (OL), Evan Staley (K), Dylan Tonkery (LB), Kelby Wickline (OL) and Corey Winfield (CB)

--West Virginia has run a total of 170 plays with 82 coming on the ground and 88 through the air. The rushing game has totaled 437 yards for an average of 5.3 per carry and three touchdowns. The passing attack has totaled 774 yards, eight touchdowns and an average of 14.1 per completion.

--The Mountaineers have gained 25 first downs via the run and 32 with the pass. West Virginia has averaged 218.5 yards per game on the ground and 387 in the air for a total of 605.5 yards per game.


Injuries/Suspensions: West Virginia will be without the trio of redshirt sophomore linebacker David Long (knee), redshirt senior right guard Grant Lingafelter (leg) and redshrit freshman center Jacob Buccigrossi (knee) for this game as they recover. There are no known suspensions.

Redshirts: Five true freshmen played in the season opener against Virginia Tech in Tevin Bush (RB), Lamonte McDougle (DL), Derrek Pitts Jr. (S), Reggie Roberson Jr. (WR) and Kenny Robinson (S).

A total of eleven redshirt freshmen have seen action for the Mountaineers in 2017: Chase Behrndt (OL), Druw Bowen (WR), Elijah Drummond (HB), Brendan Ferns (LB), Osman Kamara (S), Jake Long (CB), Sean Mahone (CB), Jefferey Pooler (DL), Josh Sills (OL), Evan Staley (K) and Dylan Tonkery (LB).

Others that have played and will not redshirt: Junior offensive lineman Isaiah Hardy, Junior wide receiver Dominique Maiden

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POINTS TO CLICK:

--Short and sweet. West Virginia is more talented on both sides of the ball, that much is a fact. Delaware State has lost 13 games in row, including a 70-0 loss to Missouri, a team West Virginia beat, last season. As long as the Mountaineers come out focused, they should be able to win this ball game but the key will be to get quality work on each side of the ball to help the team in the upcoming days. Now, the goal will be for West Virginia to accomplish that early in order for the Mountaineers to get the starters out of the game and allow the backups to get valuable reps without injuries.

--Do you on offense. West Virginia was incredibly balanced offensively in the first half against East Carolina to the tune of 22 passes and 22 runs. The Pirates had no answer for that as well as the tempo that the Mountaineers played with. West Virginia scored seven touchdowns in eight possession, with four of those coming in under a minute on the clock. That is fast-paced efficient football and the Mountaineers will want to come out and duplicate the same feat against an almost assuredly overmatched FCS defense. West Virginia should be able to score, but it needs to be crisp.

--Heat up the freshman. The West Virginia defense is replacing eight starters and its shown at times, although the unit is actually ahead of the pace it had in the three games to begin last year. The first goal is gouing to be to stop the run and if the Mountaineers can do that, West Virginia can force the Hornets to put their freshman quarterback into difficult situations where he’ll have to throw the football. That has meant blitzing and lots of it in recent years under defensive coordiantor Tony Gibson and it will provide a good challenge for the cornerback group as well. That unit has struggled at times, but will have a great chance to put some good things on tape this coming week.

--Build depth. West Virginia is a heavy favorite in this game and the ideal plan would be to get a lead early, get some valuable snaps for the starting units and then help develop depth. West Virginia is going to need players to step up at a variety of positions in order to make it through the season and that will be key at spots like wide receiver and offensive line on the offensive unit. Defense is even more pressing with the Mountaineers needing a number of backups to take that next leap. West Virginia will need more linebackers and cornerbacks to emerge on defense while finding more capable safeties also will be key. That’s what early season games are for and a good team should be able to put itself in that position. On offense, the same can be said as the Mountaineers look to develop more wide receivers and bodies that can be used in games along the offensive line.

--Make special teams special again. This area has to improve for the close games that inevitably await further down the schedule and West Virginia should have a chance to take that next step this week.

--Turnovers. West Virginia is 82-11 since 2002 when winning the turnover battle which is a very telling sign. The Mountaineers will need to take care of the football and not allow any wiggle room for Delaware State to make this a game longer than it needs to be.

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