It’s September 4th 2010 in Morgantown, WV. The fans are pouring into Touchdown City for the start of the happiest time of the year for Mountaineer fans. The student section is preparing in the blue lot outside Milan Puskar Stadium as only WVU students can on a game day. Yes, it’s finally football season and here’s a breakdown of what could be a big season for the old Gold and Blue.
On that September day, the Chanticleers of Coastal Carolina University make their first trip to Morgantown to face off with the Mountaineers for the season opener.
Coastal Carolina is a FCS team that has only been in existence since the 2003 season. The Chanticleers immediately were competitive in the Big South conference winning the league championship in 2004 through the 2006 season. The Chanticleers coming off a disappointing 5-6 record from 2009 brings back more than 25 juniors from the previous season.
The Coastal Carolina offense struggled to say the least by being outscored 280 to 205 this past season. As for passing, Zach MacDowall led the team with over 1600 yards passing and nine touchdowns while throwing 15 interceptions in eleven games. Tommy Fraser, the team’s all purpose leader, led the ground game with over 600 yards and four touchdowns during the season. The receiving corps was not as productive with the leading receiver, Brandon Whitley, grabbing only 30 receptions for just fewer than 500 yards and four touchdowns.
On the defensive side of the ball, Desmond Steward led the defensive unit with 60 tackles (tied for 18th in the league), of those 22 were solo and 4.5 were for a loss. Josh Norman led the Big South with eight interceptions running all eight back for touchdowns.
Now Let’s Bring On The Mountaineers...
West Virginia begins their 119th college football season the same way they have for the past two seasons with an FCS opponent at home. Coach Bill Stewart begins his third year as leader of the Mountaineers with a 19-8 record overall. The team will try to capture their sixth Big East Conference title, the first under Coach Stewart. Along with the conference title, a return to a major bowl game after a defeat to retired former coach Bobby Bowden and the Florida State Seminoles in the Gator Bowl.
The Mountaineers lose their 2009 starting quarterback Jarrett Brown to graduation and Geno Smith steps in to take over the offense in his sophomore season. Smith played in five games during last season, including the majority of the Gator Bowl after Brown went down to injury. Smith will be sharing the backfield with All-Big East First Team running back Noel Devine who decided to return for his senior season and not entering the NFL draft. Speaking of returns, Jock Sanders, the teams leading receiver, will return for his senior season as well.
In the stat book, West Virginia didn’t fair as well as they had in former seasons as the team wasn’t the leader in any major category other than rushing offense. Noel Devine was the all purpose Mountaineer in 2009 as he ran for over 1400 yards for 13 touchdowns and over 170 receiving yards. Jarrett Brown led the passing attack for the team throwing 11 touchdowns threw the air with six rushing touchdowns and throwing nine interceptions. Abovementioned, Jock Sanders caught the most passes from Brown during the season compiling over 70 receptions with three touchdowns adding 180 on the ground for a touchdown.
For Jeff Casteel’s defensive unit, the Mountaineers’ leading top tacklers from 2009, Pat Lazear and JT Thomas are both returning for their senior seasons for what could be a strong defense this year. The junior tandem of Robert Sands and Keith Tandy were the team leader in interceptions with five with Sands leading the Big East in that category. The Mountaineers will most likely to improve on its rank of fourth in the Big East in total defense in 2009 behind Rutgers, Pittsburgh, and South Florida respectively.
In the end, the Mountaineers, I believe, will over match the Chanticleers in the season opener. West Virginia will beat Coastal Carolina 42-14.
NEXT - Game Two: Friends of Coal Bowl: West Virginia @ Marshall