Easy Wins Digested: WVU Moves to Big 12 Play
MORGANTOWN, W. Va. — After a season-opening loss to No. 16 Virginia Tech, West Virginia has swallowed whole two straight cupcakes in non-conference opponents East Carolina and Delaware State.
WVU’s 59-16 blowout of the Hornets, a Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference foe that competes in the FCS, followed its 56-20 beat down of the Pirates.
From here on out, the Mountaineers (2-1) will play strictly Big 12 competition, although their first league foe, Kansas, is not exactly big boy competition. The Mountaineers drubbed Kansas 49-0 on their last visit to Lawrence and won 48-21 at home last year. The Jayhawks opened the season with a 38-16 win over Southeast Missouri State but have since dropped two straight, to Mid-American Conference schools Central Michigan (45-27) and Ohio (42-30).
Still, conference play will give the Mountaineers a better sense of identity and a chance to play for their first league title. The top two league finishers will square off for the Big 12 championship on Dec. 2.
“I’m excited about turning the page and moving on to the Big 12 next week,” coach Dana Holgorsen said.
His players echoed those sentiments.
“We’re going to be facing some very powerful teams and I can’t wait to compete against them,” said receiver Gary Jennings, who caught six balls for 128 yards against the Hornets.
A championship quest is especially meaningful to WVU’s seniors, including Marvin Gross Jr., a fifth-year redshirt, who made his first start at bandit safety Saturday.
“I know every game is going to be my last game, so I’m trying to put my best foot forward every time,” Gross said.
Despite blowing out the Hornets, the Mountaineers were not dominant early and suffered some noticeable mistakes in the first quarter. Gross called an 81-yard touchdown pass from Jack McDaniels to Nyfease West “a bust” on the part of WVU’s secondary but the defense seemed to buckle down until the benches emptied in the second half.
Gross said preparation for non-conference teams is no different than preparation for a league team. But the team’s energy, he says, sometimes is.
Against a team like Delaware State, “the energy level is strictly on you,” he said. “You have to make sure you keep the energy level up at all times, each play.”
JUSTIN IS BUSTIN’ OUT: Justin Crawford scored on runs of two, three and nine yards Saturday, marking the first time a WVU running back has scored three touchdowns in a game since Charles Sims did it against Texas, Nov. 9, 2013.
Crawford has opened 2017 with three straight 100-yard rushing games. That’s the most since Wendell Smallwood did it in 2015.
QUOTABLE: Marvin Gross Jr. on filling in for Toyous Avery for his first start of the season at bandit safety: “Thank God they only ran one formation the whole game.”