FINAL SCORE: WVU 48, Villanova 21
The Villanova Wildcats came into the game with 1-5 record in the series with the West Virginia Mountaineers, but this time they had an excellent game plan. Villanova limited the amount of opportunities WVU's potent offense got by picking up small chunks of yardage for first downs.
Their drives were long, methodical and clock burning. The Wildcats have an exceptional QB in Young and were very well coached. However, even with all of that going for them they still lost by 27 points.
Most of the questions about the West Virginia Mountaineers’ football team this off-season have been centered on the lack of experience on the defensive side of the ball, but the Mountaineer defense was actually very impressive in their season opener especially considering that they were without one of their best players, LB Reed Williams who is still recovering from double shoulder surgery.
Williams was instrumental in the Mountaineers phenomenal win against Oklahoma in last year’s Fiesta Bowl, but Stewart made the decision not to play him against Villanova because he was hurting too much.
Even without Williams, the starting WVU defense only allowed 14 points, and accounted for a touchdown themselves on an 29 yard interception return by linebacker Morty Ivy with 11:29 left in the contest. The game should have ended 48-14, but Villanova called a time out with less than ten seconds remaining in order to then punch it into the end zone against WVU defensive backups.
Statistically, the game was a bit of an anomaly with Villanova winning both the time of possession battle 37:22 to 22:38 and the yardage war 399 to 354. This apparently has some WVU fans concerned, but the Mountaineers just didn't have far to go to get into the end zone and it didn’t take them very long.
The combination of good field position and the efficiency of Pat White’s passing made it difficult to run up yardage or give the Mountaineer defense much time off of the field.
Villanova made the choice to load the box and Pat White had amazing success finding his open receivers, which allowed the Mountaineers to score quickly.
In fact, White had a career day passing the football and finished 25 of 33 for 208 yards with five touchdowns and only one interception. There is the obvious caveat of playing against a FCS opponent, but his performance should still erase some of the doubts people have placed on his passing ability.
It should also put some of those concerned WVU fan’s minds at ease to consider that at one point during Saturday’s game the Mountaineer offense scored on six straight possessions. Clearly yardage and time of possession aren’t everything. Also fans should take heart in the solid play of WRs Arnett and Sanders and hybrid player Will Johnson, who all did a lot to prove they can handle the pressure of replacing the multi-talented Darius Reynaud.
Next week should provide a much clearer picture of what kind of team the Mountaineers are going to be this season. They will be challenged by a very good East Carolina Pirates squad that is coming off the emotional high of beating Virginia Tech 27 to 22 at a home game that had more Hokies’ fans in the crowd than Pirate’s fans.
Virginia Tech was the number 17 team in the country coming into that match-up. Additionally ECU has always played the Mountaineers tough. Coach Stewart and his staff will need to be focused and look at where the defense can tighten up and also do some overall de-bugging on both sides of the ball, but it is a task that they are more than capable of accomplishing.