Last week the Mountaineers got a wakeup call from Maryland as they hung on to beat the Terrapins 31-21. Now West Virginia’s real season begins as they begin Big 12 play with their first game ever against Baylor.
Tavon Austin had a spectacular game against a tough Maryland; he sngged 13 balls for 179 yards and three touchdowns. Austin must use his explosive speed to get away from Baylor’s corners and safeties and make big plays down the field. Geno Smith also had a great game last week throwing for 338 yards and three touchdowns. Austin was Smith’s favorite target since it seemed like no other receivers were able to get open. This week, all receivers must play a lot harder and smarter if they want to contribute to helping the Mountaineers win.
The running game against Maryland was sluggish since the Terrapins' defense continued to beat them off the snap and drop the running backs for either short gains or negative yardage. The Mountaineer offensive line must do a better job opening up holes for the running backs to go through. If they can establish the running game early, then that will breakdown the Baylor defense which will allow the passing game to gain big yards. Another thing the offensive line did in the Maryland game was allow Smith to get sacked twice. While most will think this is a bad thing, it is actually a good thing since the defenses in the Big 12 are much more competitive than those that West Virginia has faced thus far. It should also be noted that Baylor’s defense has allowed nearly 30 points per game this year and last week they barely won against a tough UL-Monroe team.
The Mountaineers playd excellent defense last week and they will need to repeat the performance if they want to not only stop Baylor, but all of the other Big 12 teams. The defense’s first big play came on Maryland’s second possession, when Darwin Cook sacked Perry Hills and forced him to fumble Doug Rigg picked up the fumble and returned it 51 yards for a touchdown. In total, the defense came away with five sacks including two by Josh Francis. The defense was also able to intercept Hills once, and they will have to get in front of the receivers if they want to continue picking off passes. If the defense can play like this against Baylor, then there is no reason why they can’t slow down the offense and put them against the ropes.
Some good news for the defense is that they will have to face quarterback Nick Florence and not Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III. This season, Florence has thrown for over 1,000 yards and has 11 touchdowns and four interceptions. So hopefully, the defense can add one or two interceptions to his season stats. Another thing the defense has to keep in mind from now on is that most Big 12 offenses rely heavily on the pass, so the corners and safeties have to increase their presence and make receivers think twice about catching the ball near them.
The punting team got some real playing time this past week since the offense struggled quite a few times. Punter Corey Smith dropped back to kick seven times launching the ball 312 yards with two getting inside the twenty yard line. And special teamers Stedman Bailey and Austin each fielded kicks for a few yards, but it is only a matter of time before one or both take it all the way. When other teams have to punt or kick they try as hard as they can to keep it away from Austin, but he somehow always gets underneath it and takes it for a few yards.
One Baylor player the Mountaineers have to keep tabs on is wide receiver Terrance Williams. Williams has 17 receptions for 353 yards and four touchdowns. While he isn’t as impressive as the Mountaineer receivers, the corners and safeties have to shut him down or at least limit his catches throughout the game. Williams is also averaging 20.8 yards a catch which is a huge number and the defense has to take note of this if they want to come out on top.
Since this is West Virginia's first Big 12 game, there will be tons of excitement as well as nerves and it is very important that all players get this out of their systems quick or else Baylor will take advantage of the weaknesses they see. This game will also be the first time that fans will try to stripe the stadium. All fans sitting in even sections and all WVU students sitting in the upper level will wear gold while all fans sitting in odd sections and all WVU students sitting in the lower level will wear blue. If everything works out then the stadium will look awesome as fans sing Country Roads after the win. Singer and patriot Trace Adkins will sing the Star-Spangled Banner. Kickoff for this game is set for noon.
Prediction: WVU-35 Baylor-21
Player of the Game: Geno Smith 35/47 350 yards 3TDs
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