Questions Remain As WVU Dispatches Delaware State

WVU Neither Great Nor Second Rate In Pedestrian Stroll By Delaware State

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – It was sloppy, ugly and downright frustrating at times.

But West Virginia had more than enough talent on all three sides of the ball to carry it to a 59-16 victory over lowly Delaware State. The question is, what are the takeaways from such a win? There can be no true feel-good emotions after the offense turned the ball over three times, including a pair on Will Grier in an interception and one lost fumble off the snap.

That came near WVU’s own goalline, and a better offense likely converts that into a score.

The defense? It blew an early coverage, allowing Delaware State a game-tying 81-yard score that was the second bust for a long passing touchdown in as many weeks. It was unable to hold the point of attack along the defensive front during portions of the opening half, and it gave up more than five yards per play in the initial two quarters – albeit mostly because of that early coverage issue with Marin Gross.

“It was a slow start,” said Grier, who also misfired on a handful of passes before completing 12 of his final 14. “I thought we practiced well this week, but it was a slow start. I don’t think as a whole we were ready to play. We took it lightly and that’s something we have to work on. We have another Noon game next weekend and we have to come out fast.”

It wasn’t merely the offense and defense; Special teams had their moments as well. Delaware State’s kickoff return unit gashed the Mountaineers for two long returns. David Sills was flagged for roughing the punter, when he came clean through the line but plowed into the specialist, drawing a five-yard penalty. In all, there was much left to be desired, even with a five touchdown lead at the break.

But that’s the catch, and crux, of the argument. Lest this appear all gloom and doom, there were strengths as well. Justin Crawford’s three first half touchdowns were a career-best, Grier threw for 304 yards and three touchdowns on 19-for-27 passing, and Marcus Simms continued to exploit secondaries deep, taking the top off the Hornets’ backfield for scores of 62 and 16 yards. Three of his first four career catches went for touchdowns dating to last week’s 52-yarder against East Carolina.

The defense limited Delaware State to just four meaningful first downs – i.e. those coming in the opening half – and the Hornets converted just one of their first eight third downs. By the time DSU picked up its fifth first down of the game, it trailed 45-10 and the contest was essentially over.

“I thought after the first drive – they hit us with a play they haven’t shown and Marvin was in a new position – that we settled down,” WVU defensive coordinator Tony Gibson said. “Our ones played really well. I thought we tackled well. They knew they couldn’t protect. That was the most snaps of unbalanced (formations) I have ever seen in a game. We did a good job with leverage. We were making adjustments on the side and once we got it rolling they couldn’t do much.”

Add in the fact that the 81 yard score amounted to half the Hornets offensive totals in the first half, and the defense contained, if not outright controlled, a bad offense for the most part. Delaware State managed 301 yards, but just 220 over its final 57 plays. That’s an average of less than 3.9 yards per play, to go with an interception and four fumbles, two lost, and a measly three points on the board when the game was in doubt.

The offense, meanwhile, reeled in the play calling and rolled to 14 second half points after scoring 45 in the first two quarters. It was, by most accounts, a positive outing. It just never seemed to find that flow and crispness that is the earmark of a truly high level performance. It was middling, monotonous and mundane at times, and it did little to inspire either confidence or dread heading into Big 12 play. Right now, there remain as many unknowns with this team as there were following the ECU victory.

“Glad to get that one in the books and finish the nonconference schedule,” head coach Dana Holgorsen said. “We’re 2-1. We all wish it was 3-0. They guys did a good job of bouncing back after the first game and playing well last week, then for the most part doing what they needed to today. I know there was some sloppy stuff here and there, but I’m not going to split hairs when it comes to that stuff. I’m excited about turning the page and moving on.”