West Virginia Frustrates Fans as Numerous Issues Crop Up in Season Opener

Tim McGheeCorrespondent IIISeptember 7, 2009

CHARLOTTE, NC - DECEMBER 27:  Noel Devine #7 of the West Virginia Mountaineers celebrates with his teammates after scoring a touchdown against the North Carolina Tar Heels during the Meineke Car Care Bowl on December 27, 2008 at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, North Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

My son-in-law and I took off on a Morgantown pub crawl after the game, waiting for my daughter the RN to complete her shift. Everywhere he and I entered, the sunburned patrons had choice words about the Mountaineers' opener against Liberty.

Very choice. Lots of expletives.

Essentially, and regardless of the type of our words, we were saying the same thing: The 2009 edition of West Virginia football is still a work in progress.

Some aspects of Saturday's game are good. Before the game, I had absolutely no worries about WVU quarterback Jarrett Brown. Neither should any Mountaineer fan.

True, he's not as fast as Pat White, but he can run, and he's a bear to bring down. And when he stops, locks, and loads, he has a very accurate cannon in that right arm. 

As for leadership, I'm of the opinion that he held things together on this tough day—because other aspects of the game were not so good.

The most glaring issue was kickoff coverage. Fans are weary of hearing that, and writers are wondering why we have to keep writing about it. Bill Stewart has had a year to address this problem that is only going to get worse. 

Long kicks, pooch kicks—WVU is equal opportunity when it comes to its ineptitude to stop a kick return. Liberty ran two beyond the 50, looking like they knew what they were doing by taking them directly up an empty lane.

Thankfully, the Mountaineers kicked one out of bounds for a penalty on the Flames' 40 to the delight of the crowd. 

I don't have any ideas, but this problem is going to reach up and bite WVU during the Big East schedule if it is not resolved quickly.

On the surface, the WVU offensive line looked as if the unit was doing its job well. Brown wasn't sacked and had hours of pocket time, and Noel Devine cracked 100 yards. I heard all that, but what I saw was the O-line from a top 30 FBS program struggling with three or four D-linemen from a top 30 FCS program.

Liberty's linebackers were free to roam and disrupt, especially in the red zone, where our guards and tackles looked confused. True, we were five-for-five close to pay dirt, but four of them were field goals (a job handled admirably by kicker Tyler Bitancurt)—four that should have been touchdowns. Remember who the opponent was before you start trumpeting red zone stats.

Devine with 112 yards in fewer than 20 carries? He should have had 200 yards. I think Devine is faster this year than last, if that is possible. His shaking and baking found his early yards as the O-line was trying to figure it out. Finally, Devine got a crease midway through the fourth and reminded us why everyone thinks he is sensational.

A little under 58,000 in attendance, and we were all wondering what's up with the defense. I had predicted a shutout at 21-0. I got the margin right but was as surprised as anyone to witness Liberty throw for over 200 yards. 

In my decades of watching Mountaineer football in Morgantown, I've rarely been enamored with WVU's ability to consistently stop the crossing route, but Saturday was ridiculous.

Realizing Coach Stew doesn't want to reveal blitz packages against an FCS school, basic coverages should have been able to slow them down over the middle. They didn't.

So even after the opener, no one really knows whether or not the Mountaineers have a pass defense.

In Greenville, Appalachian State was pounced upon by East Carolina for an early 24, but the highly-ranked FCS team took the Pirates down to the wire. ECU travels to Morgantown next weekend after a scare. However, I contend the day was more frightening for the Mountaineers as weaknesses were revealed.

You can bet the coaching staff started working Saturday night. They're going to need all the time they can get.