September 3, 2016
I preface this piece by saying that I did not see one play of this game. I did listen to the WVU Radio broadcast for most of the second half.
The Mountaineers have had a history of disappointing in week one, going back to the Kickoff Classic against Nebraska in 1994. The Mountaineers were embarrassed on national television, losing 31-0.
It may be that I did not see the game. It may be that the Mountaineers just had a solid performance. It’s likely a combination of both. I’ve been told that I’m too negative and pessimistic about the Mountaineers. However, I don’t know of too much to pick at in today’s performance. The positive certainly outweighs the negative.
Losing the turnover battle 3-1 is concerning. Head Coach Dana Holgorsen sounded dismissive of the turnovers in his quick on-field interview after the game and doesn’t appear concerned publicly. Losing the turnover battle will lead to losses. That is basic football math.
Settling for four field goals is concerning. It was a problem that plagued the Mountaineers at times last season. Thankfully Mike Molina was perfect today.
The defense gave up 26 first downs (and the offense had just 24) and 462 total yards. Both numbers are higher than I’d like to see, but not alarmingly high. It was a bend-but-don’t-break performance, as they did hold the Tigers to just 11 points.
There was plenty to like and be optimistic about.
Missouri only allowed 16.2 PPG (6th nationally) and 302 YPG (9th nationally last season). Only twice last season (against Mississippi State and Arkansas) did the Tigers allow more than the 26 points that the Mountaineers scored today. This is also a defense that has six of their front seven back and eight starters total on defense.
Over the last couple of seasons, I have been quite critical of Skyler Howard and his throwing, specifically his completion percentage. It is a justified criticism, based off his 54.8 completion percentage in 2015. Today he completed 65.7% of his passes. In 2015 he only passed for more than today’s 253 six times. He also had six games under 188 yards last season.
As mentioned earlier, Mike Molina was perfect today on his six kicks (4 field goals, 2 points after). Many teams struggle to find one good kicker. It’s a small sample size, but it appears that the Mountaineers may have two.
One last thing that I am happy to see is somewhat WVU related, but also not entirely. Listening to the broadcast, it was nice to hear multiple players’ names that are from the state of West Virginia. Many have criticized the program for “not keeping players in-state,” but there haven’t many FBS-bound players from the state. It appears that West Virginia high school football is making progress. For those of us that at times miss “the good ol’ days,” this is nice to see. Personally, I hope the trend continues.