WVU 35, East Carolina 20: Offense Rolls Despite Miscues

Frank AhrensSenior Writer ISeptember 13, 2009

TAMPA, FL - SEPTEMBER 28: Quarterback Jarrett Brown #16 of the West Virginia Mountaineers looks to pass during the game against the University of South Florida Bulls at Raymond James Stadium September 28, 2007 in Tampa Florida. (Photo by Marc Serota/Getty Images)

Don't get too caught up in the mistakes made by West Virginia on Saturday during its 35-20 payback victory over East Carolina—the penalties, the fumbles, the strange calls by the refs. All those things can be fixed. If WVU couldn't move the ball or stop East Carolina from moving the ball, those are things that couldn't be fixed.

Instead, WVU moved the ball at will against the Pirates, when the Mountaineers got out of their own way. East Carolina could do nothing to stop WVU's deep passing game other than wave at the receivers on the way by. Bradley Starks, Alric Arnett, Tavon Austin all burned the Pirates' secondary for deep balls.

On the other side, WVU's defense dominated the Pirates, registering four sacks and an interception and holding ECU to only 237 yards of total offense.

Thanks to WVU miscues, ECU's scoring drives covered 31, 26, 23 and 18 yards. In truth, the score should have been something closer to the score of the 2007 WVU-ECU game: 48-7.

Jarrett Brown was even more impressive than he was in the opening win against Liberty. He threw four touchdowns and only one interception and that one came on another deep ball to Jock Sanders that Brown simply threw a split-second too late. So that was one touchdown left on the table.

The other came near ECU's end zone when Brown rolled left and prepared to throw the ball to a wide-open fullback in the end zone, only to have the ball mysteriously pop out of his hand as he cocked his throwing arm. ECU recovered. So there was another touchdown left on the table.

Explaining the fumble after the game, Coach Stewart revealed that Brown "sweats so profusely." TMI, coach! Probably, Brown is now thinking, "Thanks coach. Why not tell everyone about my athlete's foot, too?"

The most surprising to me touchdown pass came on a 58-yard post pattern to Austin. I didn't think that was the quick slotback's game. I thought he was a reverse-and-bubble-screen guy, but apparently he has breakaway speed, too.

On defense, linebacker J.T. Thomas seemed everywhere and I'm still not completely sold on cornerback Brandon Hogan. I know he's got skills and speed but, honestly, the only reason he didn't get beaten for a touchdown was because the receiver stepped out of the back of the end zone.

The only troubling things to come from Saturday's game were injuries to starting defensive tackle Scooter Berry (shoulder) and middle linebacker Reed Williams (foot sprain). On Sunday, Stewart said both injuries looked better than they did right after the game on Saturday and he listed both as day-to-day.

I'd say Williams is as indispensable as any man on the defense but Najee Goode subbed for him most of the game and played well, registering a sack and a near-interception. And backup linebacker Ovid Gouldboure got a sack, as well. I'm very happy with our linebacking corps.

The defense looked fast and unpredictable and menacing, with plenty of blitzes, and made life miserable for ECU quarterback Patrick Pinkney all day.

The WVU offense was diverse, passing-wise, as Brown threw passes to six receivers (Sanders led the way with nine catches for a career-high 99 yards).

Interestingly, slot receiver Wes Lyons did not have a catch despite playing most of the game. He pulled a hamstring on the first play of the Liberty game leaning over to catch a pass and Stewart pulled him. Now, he disappears during the entire ECU game. Everyone said he had a terrific spring and fall camp but he simply refused to show it during actual games. Frankly, I don't know what his problem is. It's like he doesn't really want to play.

One more thing: I was very glad Noel Devine scored a touchdown. He deserved it after crunching out 80 hard-earned yards on the day. His longest run was a pretty 31-yard cutback but most were short and punishing.

The offensive line so far is doing a good job of pass-blocking—aided as it is by Brown's elusiveness. But it must learn to run-block. A back as fast and skilled as Devine is should be getting 150 yards a game, not 80. The offensive line owes Devine more.

On Saturday, WVU travels to Auburn to finish its home-and-home series. Auburn has suddenly found an offense against lesser opponents under new coach Gene Chizik, rolling up 589 yards against Mississippi State on Saturday. On the other hand, Auburn's defense gave up nearly 300 yards and 24 points.

So this could shape up as a shootout on The Plains. If that's the case, I like WVU's gunslinger.