West Virginia: How To Take an Auburn and Make an East Carolina Out Of It
I said East Carolina by three, and the Mountaineers rolled 35-20. I'm just doing this once more. Then, I'm out of the predictions business.
Here it is: West Virginia will win the remainder of its games, one at a time.
One at a time. So, let's talk about Auburn.
I gave myself a hotfoot by selling the WVU defense way, way short. Well, they manned up, fighting through a) key early injuries to linebacker Reed Williams and defensive lineman Scooter Berry, and b) poor field position from three turnovers and being penalized half the distance to Star City.
A deep and hard-hitting squad of stoppers held a potent East Carolina offense to only 13 first downs. The Pirates clawed for only 62 rushing yards and had to scrape mobile quarterback Patrick Pinkney off the turf four times after sacks.
As well, ECU's footballs spiraled through the air a lot, only to be batted down often by the extremely athletic West Virginia defensive backs.
East Carolina went up a quick 10-0, scored near the end of the half to make it 21-20, and that was it as the WVU D brought Mountaineers off the bench and dropped the hammer.
Auburn gonged up an impressive 49 on Mississippi State. I don't see the Tigers scoring more than a touchdown a quarter on this resourceful, talented, flying-around West Virginia defense.
There I go again.
Now, for the offense. I really don't like the word "discombobulated" since it's clunky and cumbersome. I also once heard Frank Gifford use the word four times in four sentences on Monday Night Football. As a writer, that really affected me.
However, there is no better way to describe the West Virginia attack in the first several minutes of the WVU-ECU game.
It looked very ugly. And, the boos and the angry comments rang out. That is completely unnecessary and will be the subject of a future column.
In fact, the only man cool and collected in the entire county was WVU quarterback Jarrett Brown. An article in Morgantown's Dominion Post stated that at the nadir Jarrett simply got everyone together and told them to "just make a play."
Then he himself made a bunch of them.
Completing nearly three-quarters of his passes and amassing over 330 yards through the air, Brown entertained the crowd and frustrated East Carolina with his total offense game.
The offensive line still played young. The unit didn't help Noel Devine out much at all, and could afford Jarrett only one, maybe two good looks as the protection pocket collapsed too quickly.
After that, it was time to take off. That's where the WVU quarterback is very dangerous. When he is sprinting out, Brown creates all sorts of problems for the defense.
Will he gun it, or will he be a load to bring down? Jarrett raised that question over and over against East Carolina. Similar to a man a generation before him, Jarrett Brown is a large version of Doug Flutie, difficult to catch and even more difficult to stop, but a winner through and through.
To hell with what the NFL says. Brown's brand of attack makes for some wonderful college football.
When Brown did throw, it was if he had four Lynn Swanns out there running routes and making great catches. Lining up twins right and left early, sometimes triplets on one side, Bill Stewart left no doubt that he intended to air it out all day.
Slot man Jock Sanders had his typical workmanlike contributions. And, wideout Alric Arnett (pictured) displayed why he is already attracting pro scout chatter. The way he blew by the Pirate corner for his first touchdown reminded us older guys of Danny Buggs. They are both downfield receivers if you ever saw one.
If Mississippi State scored in the mid-20s, I don't see why West Virginia can't simply put it in the breeze on the Alabama plains and see what happens. Besides, the Mountaineers have their X factor in the true freshman flyboy Tavon Austin. Cover Alric and Jock, Auburn d-backs, then count Tavon's cleats.
That was a fine game West Virginia played against East Carolina. The Mounties can duplicate the results at Auburn especially if four things happen: a) Air Stew is cleared for takeoff, b) the offensive line can push the Tigers around for Noel Devine and give him a chance to run for more than 80 yards, c) no turnovers, and d) no foolish penalties.
Auburn is playing at a level above what the experts predicted for this year. It'll be a fight, but if WVU can balance its offense, the Mountaineers will win a good one on the road.
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