West Virginia Football: It Could Be a Long Season After Close Call in Opener

Ben KerchevalCollege Football Lead WriterAugust 31, 2013

Aug 31, 2013; Morgantown, WV, USA; West Virginia Mountaineers running back Charles Sims (3) carries the ball as William & Mary Tribe linebacker Quincey September (9) defends during the second quarter at Milan Puskar Stadium. The West Virginia Mountaineers won 24-17. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sport

Understandably, the general preseason expectations for West Virginia this year were that the Mountaineers would finish somewhere in the middle to lower part of the Big 12 pack.

While the 2013 season is still in its infancy, WVU's opener against William & Mary didn't provide a lot of confidence that Dana Holgorsen's team could make a run in what could be a wide open league this year. 

The Mountaineers needed 17 unanswered points to beat the Tribe, who were coming off a 2-9 season a year ago at the FCS level, 24-17. 

That's, uh, not good. #Analysis

While it can sometimes be difficult to gauge just how good (or bad) a team is in Week 1 against an inferior opponent, there are some glaring concerns for the Mountaineers that have carried over from last season. Primarily, the secondary still looked lost and out of position when the Tribe pushed the passing game downfield. 

That was compounded by some eye-popping catches from W&M wide receiver Tre McBride, but reading the ball is still a challenge for this unit. 

WVU's defense did post a shutout in the second half, but getting to the quarterback and forcing mistakes were practically non-existent parts of the game. 

The offensive line also started shaky, but the Mountaineers were able to grind out some yards in the ground late in the game when they needed to thanks to Houston transfer Charles Sims and Dreamius Smith.

In fact, WVU ran the ball 44 times to just 27 pass attempts.

The quarterback race appears to have titled heavily in favor of Paul Millard. The junior took the field first and played all but two possessions. Florida State transfer Clint Trickett, the other quarterback in position to claim the starting job, struggled with no completions on two attempts and a sack. It didn't help the quarterback that there was little in the way of a downfield passing game, either. 

It was a generally poor performance by WVU, save for the ground game, and this is about as easy as it's going to get all year for the Mountaineers. It's certainly possible that Saturday's win was nothing more than season-opening jitters, but there are many reasons to be concerned about this team. 

If things don't improve, 2013 will be a long season for West Virginia.